Hour Limits for Truck Drivers: 1935

This article from the Jan. 26, 1935, issue of Traffic World often reads as if it were written yesterday, but it predates the first federal hours of service rules, which were issued in 1938. The recommendations of the National Safety Council sound quite familiar.

Hour Limits for Truck Drivers

Under the title “Too Long at the Wheel,” the National Safety Council has issued a report dealing with fatigue among drivers of motor vehicles. The report is the result of studies made in each state, supplemented by personal investigations by two council engineers. It shows that 1 percent of all automobile accidents occur while the driver of the car is asleep or extremely fatigued, as compared with 3.2 percent attributable to intoxication or partial intoxication, 5.1 (percent) to defects in the vehicle or equipment and 0.7 of 1 percent “struck or struck by railroad train.”

In a summary of the report, the council points out that “violations of these rules (limiting hours of consecutive driving in most states) are most common and serious in long-haul for-hire trucking, particularly among drivers who own their own vehicles; although flagrant offenses occur in other types of trucking and are not uncommon in some kinds of bus operations.”

So far as regularly run common carrier truck fleets are concerned, the council says that many “have already adopted safety measures voluntarily, and the only effect enforced legislation on hours and duty will have on them is to reduce competition from, and chance of collision with trucks whose drivers are working dangerously long hours.”

Conclusions reached from the study are embodied in a series of “general recommendations.” The council recommends that the element of fatigue be given more importance in accident reports, that a scientific study be made to determine what effect continuous driving, long hours without sleep and mechanical aspects of vehicles have on fatigue and to ascertain the recuperative value of various rest periods, and that fleet operators and private owners voluntarily organize their businesses to avoid excessively long hours on duty for drivers.

All states, the council recommends, should limit the hours on duty of all except the drivers of private cars, that limitation to cover total working and waiting time, not merely time spent at the wheel. “There is need,” the report says, “for agreement among the states as to what constitutes time on duty and the conditions under which rest may be obtained.” After such laws have been made, the report said, a definite procedure for their enforcement should be laid down.

Finally, the report recommends that truck operators adopt a system of trip records so that these records may show the exact conditions under which their drivers are working.

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Click here for a slideshow exploring the history of truck driver hours of service regulations.  

Contact William B. Cassidy at wcassidy@joc.com and follow him at www.twitter.com/wbcassidy_joc.

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