A recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center found trucking carriers that received hours-of-service (HOS) regulations exemptions (as part of the last round of highway reauthorization legislation) reported higher crash rates than those that didn’t obtain waivers from the rules.

The Volpe study found that agricultural carrier operating exclusively within a 100-mile radius had a 19% higher crash rate than agricultural carriers operating outside a 100-mile radius between 2005 and 2007, while utility service motor carrier crash rates jumped by 40% during the same period.

"Since driver related factors are such a large contributor to crashes, it stands to reason that the hours-of-service exemptions provided in the last Highway Act – SAFETEA-LU – are largely responsible for the increased rates," noted Stephen Campbell, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). "Safety is clearly compromised by these exemptions and they should be repealed in the upcoming Transportation Reauthorization Act."

SAFETEA-LU exempted agricultural carriers from the hours-of-service regulations if they operated only within a 100-mile radius from their central base of operation. It also exempted utility service vehicle drivers from all hours-of-service regulations.

The study also showed that in 2007 agricultural carriers as a whole had higher violation and out-of-service rates than the rest of the trucking industry in the categories of unsafe driver, driver fitness, vehicle maintenance, and improper loading – with a 32% overall average increase.

Agricultural carriers operating solely within a 100-mile radius had higher violations and out-of-service rates than those operating outside of a 100-mile radius in the categories of unsafe driving, driver fitness, vehicle maintenance, and improper loading, the Volpe study reported, with the overall average increase in the case at 24 percent.