New restrictions reduce hours for truckers in Florida

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Truck drivers traveling in Florida must spend fewer hours behind the wheel, according to new state driving restrictions that took effect this week. A truck driver traveling in Florida now cannot drive more than 12 hours following 10 consecutive hours of rest; the previous state rule allowed driving for 15 hours after eight hours off duty.

Federal regulations for truck drivers making interstate travel allow up to 11 hours of driving after 10 consecutive hours of rest. Philip Abraira, president of the Florida Trucking Association, says most truckers in the state already abide by the federal hours-of-service standards and would not be affected by the new restrictions.

The state changed its rule to reduce the number of crashes linked to tired truck drivers, says Lt. Jeff Frost of the state Motor Carrier Compliance Office. Florida — which is now eligible for an additional $3.6 million in federal funding for traffic safety and public awareness programs — ranked second last year in the United States for the number of fatal large-vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But a traffic safety group says the state’s new HOS rule does not do enough to combat driver fatigue. “It’s still too long,” says John Lannen with the Washington-based Truck Safety Coalition. “It just doesn’t make sense that they wouldn’t have met the national standard or really improved on it and protected their citizens and the people who visit the state.”