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New rules aim to reduce truck driver fatigue

When truck drivers don’t get enough sleep, the trucks they drive can easily become dangerous weapons on the road. Driver fatigue is a well-known cause of truck accidents and traffic fatalities. Because of the dangers associated with driving while drowsy, truck drivers are required to abide by Federal Regulations that limit the number of hours they can be on the road. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) current hours-of-service (HOS) rule limits truck drivers from working more than 82 hours in a seven day period. The FMCSA has recently revised the federal regulations and safety requirements for commercial truck drivers and the number of hours a driver can be on the road will be reduced as part of the new rules that go into effect in July of 2013.The new rules provide:

  • The HOS rule has decreased from 82 hours in a week to 70 hours in a week.
  • Drivers are required to take a 30 minute break after driving for eight hours.
  • A driver, who drives the maximum 70 hours in a week, is required to take at least two nights’ rest from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. – the time when their body demands sleep the most.
  • A driver is still permitted to be on the road up to 11 hours a day, including breaks.
  • Trucking companies and truckers that violate the rules face steep fines. Companies that allow their drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by three or more hours can be penalized $11,000 per offense, and the drivers could be fined a maximum of $2,750 for each violation.

A spokesperson for the FMCSA opines that the new rules will prevent truck accidents caused by fatigue and reduce fatalities. However, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a member of the National Transportation Safety Board believes that the implementation of the new rules is a step in the right direction but they are not strict enough. To truly reduce motor vehicle fatalities caused by truck driver fatigue, he posits that additional measures should be required. Those measures include requiring companies to inquire as to whether their employees suffer from any sleep disorders, installation of electronic devices in the trucks that monitor the hours driven, and mandatory driver education on fatigue.

Injured in a truck accident?

When trucks are involved in accidents, the results are often severe or fatal. This is due to the sheer size of an 18-wheeler compared to other motor vehicles. When truck drivers fail to follow federal regulations and truck driver fatigue causes serious injuries or wrongful death, the victim or family of the victim is entitled to compensation. An experienced truck accident attorney knows how to find the evidence to determine whether the driver was following the rules. Contact a personal injury attorney in your area to learn your rights.

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