Do fatigued truck drivers cause fatal accidents? The latest evidence that they do appears in a new report from a nonpartisan federal agency.
In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passed a directive called the Hours of Service Drivers Final Rule, designed to keep tired semi-truck drivers off the road and limit the catastrophic trucking accidents they cause each day in the United States. In 2013, almost 4,000 people in this country were killed in commercial trucking crashes.
Under the new safety guidelines, big-rig drivers must:
• Drive no more than 11 hours after taking 10 consecutive hours off
• Drive a maximum of 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days
• Take a 34-hour break every seven days if they average at least 70 hours of driving per week. The break must include at least two periods of rest between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Trucking Industry Opposed New Driver Safety Rules
The trucking industry had to comply with the new regulations by July 1, 2013. Bowing to trucking industry pressure, Congress suspended the 34-hour rule in late 2014. Opponents to the new fatigued truck driver limits stated they would be costly and ineffective.
However, the U.S. Government Accountability Office – an independent government watchdog agency – reviewed the Hours of Service rules to gauge their effectiveness. The GAO recently released its report and found that in the 18 months the regulations were in place there were:
• Fewer fatal truck crashes
• A diminished risk of fatigued truck drivers
• No increase in crashes during morning rush hour (5 a.m. to 9 a.m.)
That last point counters the trucking industry’s concern when opposing the 34-hour break rule. Trucking companies and their lobbyists argued it would mean more trucks on the road in the morning and, therefore, more trucking accidents.
The safety of others is not always the number one priority of truck drivers and trucking companies. If you lost a loved one in a fatal trucking accident or if you were severely hurt in a crash caused by a semi, you may want to consult with an attorney experienced in representing victims of catastrophic trucking accidents to obtain justice on your behalf.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.