Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on March 7th, 2014,
by Zane Cagle

Update: Truck Driver Fatigue and Regulation Changes

Posted on March 7th, 2014 by Zane Cagle

[cbc_video id=”10364″ volume=”30″ width=”642″ aspect_ratio=”16×9″ autoplay=”0″ controls=”1″]In an attempt to reduce the number of trucking accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) instituted new Hours of Service (HOS) regulations for truck drivers in July of last year.  Under the changed rules, the FMCSA significantly lowered the amount of time that interstate truck drivers may work every week to 70 hours. Previously, drivers were able to work up to 82 hours. As well, the new HOS rules were changed to require drivers to rest for 34 consecutive hours once the 70-hour maximum has been reached.

The new changes have met with some controversy.  Although it has been less than a year, the FMCSA believes the changes will reduce driver fatigue and subsequently reduce the number of accidents related to driver fatigue.  A recent study by the Washington State University Sleep and Performance supported the reasoning behind the FMCSA’s philosophy of the new regulations.

Statistics

Researchers compared two groups of truck drivers. Each group was allowed to rest for the periods by the previous HOS rules and by the new HOS regulations.  It was concluded that drivers having two nighttime periods of rest before starting their shifts (as in the new rules) reported fewer distractions, less drowsiness and were better able to stay in their lanes than those who only had one nighttime period of rest as in the previous HOS rules.

It is still too early in the process to know if the new FMCSA regulations will have a significant impact on reducing trucking accidents.  However, there is evidence that it will work to ensure that more drivers have an opportunity to get more rest than they were before.

The US agencies assuming the responsibility for tracking and reporting on truck driving statistics are under the US Department of Transportation through the agencies of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration. The NHTSA manages highway safety programs with the goal of preventing vehicle crashes.  The FMCSA regulates interstate commercial driving safety and intrastate commercial driver’s license requirements.  The FMCSA ensures trucks comply with regulations like limits on vehicle size and weight with the intent of preserving highway infrastructures and improving truck safety.  It is the NHTSA and the FMCSA that primarily report on truck safety issues.  Also, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Truck Safety Coalition track truck accidents, injury and fatality numbers.

The Department of Transportation reported:

  • 1.1 Million interstate motor carries including for-hire, owner operators and private carriers as of December 2010
  • In 2007 (last available data), the Commodity Flow Survey reported that trucks hauled more than $8.3 trillion worth of goods
  • Approximately 11 billion tons of freight are moved each year
  • In 2009, 529 large truck occupants were killed in crashes
  • In 2009, 20,000 large truck occupants were injured
  • Annually, approximately 500,000 accident involving trucks occur
  • In 2010, there were 1.1 fatal crashes per 100 million truck miles

Furthermore, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported the following results from 2010:

  • 3,413 people died in accidents involving large trucks
  • 14 percent of the deaths were occupants in the truck
  • 72 percent of the deaths were occupants in a different vehicle
  • 13 percent of the deaths were people on motorcycles, walking or riding bicycles
  • The number of fatalities rose by 8 percent compared to 2009
  • Large trucks accounted for 4 percent of the registered vehicles but 9 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths

While fatigue is not the only cause of truck accidents, it is a contributor.

Truck Drivers-Working for a Living

Truck drivers are just like you and I, they work hard to make the maximum amount of money they can in order to support themselves and their families.  Each one of us has been guilty of over scheduling or piling on more to our work load in order to be successful.  Often, truck drivers must drive cross-country and meet

Skipping on rest and driving past the regulated hours of service is illegal.  The FMCSA regulates the hours of service a truck driver may drive before resting. Truck driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents in the United States.  Because of the amount of driving a truck driver must do, it is not surprising that fatigue contributes to the number of trucking accidents. Truck accidents are not just costly to the trucking company but to everyone involved in the crash.  Trucks can weight 30 times that of a passenger car and most often, when a semi-truck and a passenger collide, the victim(s) are in the passenger car.

Other Causes of Trucking Accidents

In addition to driver fatigue, there are other causes of truck accidents including driver error, drug and alcohol use, improper loading and/or maintenance issues.  The new HOS rules are not likely to impact the problem of driver negligence on the nation’s roadways, but the impact of requiring more drivers to be rested before they start a shift may reduce the amount of accidents caused by driver fatigue.  Many of our jobs can still be one safely even if we are fatigued, but driving a truck down an interstate is not one of those jobs.  We need to be encouraging and demanding that trucking companies put realistic expectations on truck drivers and not push drivers to meet unrealistic deadlines and drive longer than regulated hours.  Not only are these new hours of service regulations keeping the greater public’s safety in mind, but the individual truck driver as well. While not all truck drivers will appreciate these requirements because it may be a difference in pay, it is still better, safer working conditions for them.  I would like to see some innovation in the transportation business that treats employee (truck drivers) with greater respect and concern for safety.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much a trucking company is making if they are inadvertently risking the public’s safety by imposing unrealistic deadlines on truck drivers.

Bottom line–all motorists have to considerate of one another.  That means, passenger car drivers must be conscious of large trucks and truck drivers must be conscious of all other vehicles.  Large trucks require more stopping distance and have less ability to maneuver.  Safety on our interstates requires that Everyone be safety conscious and drive carefully in order to reduce accidents. Each of us should avoid driving if we are fatigued or under the influence–if not for your sake, then the sake of other motorists.

If you or a loved one has been in a truck accident, you may need legal assistance. If you have been injured, then you definitely need an experienced trucking accident attorney. Unfortunately, most crashes with semi-trucks result in serious injury or fatalities simply because the collision of 50,000-80,000 pounds compared to 2,000 pounds is just too great of a disparity.  Occupants of a passenger vehicle involved in trucking accident most generally need an attorney to ensure they receive the correct compensation. Our attorneys are available seven days a week for free consultations on your rights for compensation. Call us locally (314) 276-1681 or toll free (314) 276-1681