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Truck Driver Safety Policies Will Have Life and Death Consequences

drowsy driving truckerLegislation passed last week to prevent a government shutdown effectively blocked federal regulation of truck driver rest rules. This is the third time Congress has suspended driver rest rules requiring truckers to get two full nights of rest between work weeks.

Truck Driver Rest Rules

Hours-of-service regulations limit when and for how long truckers can remain on the road.

Under current law, truck drivers may drive up to 11 hours a day, and up to 70 hours over an 8-day period. A 34-hour break is required between work weeks.

The recent legislation suspended regulations that would require the 34-hour rest period to include two nights (1am-5am) before another work week can begin. The defeated regulations also prevented truckers from working 60 hours, taking a 34-hour break, and resuming another work week within a 7-day period.

The rest rules aimed to ensure that truck drivers get the rest required to do their jobs safely. They would also keep large trucks off the road during the hours when fatal accidents are most likely to occur. Hours-of-service rules not only protect the health and safety of truck drivers, they also protect the lives of every other driver who shares the road with big rigs.

Driver Fatigue a Top Safety Concern

While the trucking industry largely favors the suspension of these rules, safety advocates are alarmed.

“This action will literally have life and death consequences for truck drivers and all motorists sharing the roads with them,” said Joan Claybrook, chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Truck accident fatalities rose in 2015, and the National Transportation Safety Board identified driver fatigue as one of its top concerns.  Those who don’t consider driver fatigue to be a serious threat would do well to look at the facts. A recent AAA study shows that missing just 1-2 hours of sleep can nearly double the risk of a crash. That statistic is scary enough when it applies to your average motorist, let alone the driver of a tractor trailer.

Driver fatigue caused the 2014 tractor trailer crash that killed comedian James McNair and severely injured Tracy Morgan. And the problem extends beyond the truck industry. The engineer of the train that crashed in Hoboken, NJ, in September suffered from sleep apnea.

“Open Season on Safety” in 2017?

Safety advocates anticipate additional major rollbacks in truck driver safety regulations in the coming year. In addition to the hours-of-service issue, the trucking industry may move forward with proposals to increase the size and weight limits for tractor trailers. Other issues include regulations governing the development of self-driving cars and trucks.

The legislation passed last week will expire in April, giving the new administration the opportunity to shape spending policies going forward.

If you or someone you know has been hurt in a truck accident or a car accident involving a large truck or tractor trailer, contact our office for a free consultation.

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Posted in Truck Accidents.

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