Despite evidence that shows fatal commercial truck accidents are increasing, federal officials appear to be bending to the trucking industry’s financial interests by diluting an important public safety measure.
The safety measure is a relatively new set of federal rules designed to stop one of the leading causes of deadly truck crashes – fatigued truck drivers.
In June the U.S. Department of Transportation released a preliminary estimate of motor vehicle fatalities for 2018. The report projected that deaths in big rig crashes will rise 3 percent in 2018 over 2017, which will mark five consecutive years that fatal semi accidents have climbed.
Yet, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – the agency responsible for commercial truck safety – is nearing a step that seemingly can be explained as bowing to a corporate truck industry priority. And that priority is profits before public safety.
Tired truckers represent a significant cause of catastrophic tractor-trailer crashes. Current federal regulations, called Hours of Service Rules, are designed to keep fatigued over-the-road truck drivers off the road by limiting the number of hours they can drive per day and per week. The rules, which became effective in 2013, also mandate rest periods.
Mandated Rest Periods for Over-The-Road Truck Drivers
Truckers can drive only 11 hours within a consecutive 14-hour period. Before that window can begin anew, truckers must rest for 10 consecutive hours. Commercial truckers also must rest 30 minutes during eight hours of consecutive driving. Long-haul truckers cannot drive more than 60 hours within a seven-day period and 70 hours in an eight-day period.
One trucking industry group has been upfront about wanting to change these safety measures. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is on record calling for the end of the mandatory 30-minute rest period for truck drivers. The organization would also welcome a loosening of the 14–hour driving timeframe.
And the FMCSA is considering these moves.
What makes all of this more vexing is that another federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, has targeted crashes involving tired drivers as a major problem to solve.
One in Five Fatal Crashes Involves a Drowsy Driver
Earlier this year the NTSB published is 2019-2020 “Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.” Among the list of 10 items was reducing fatigue-related accidents. In explaining its concern, the NTSB refers to research that shows 21 percent of deadly crashes in the United States involve a drowsy driver. It also notes that fatigue-related fatal accidents are most likely underreported by police.
The NTSB further explains that fatigue can affect a person’s ability to react and control a vehicle. When that vehicle weighs as much as 80,000 pounds – the weight of a fully loaded tractor-trailer – a fatigued truck driver can easily lose control and cause multiple fatalities, especially when roads are crowded.
If the federal government accedes to the trucking industry’s wishes and reduces safeguards against tired truckers, the number of people killed in truck crashes may continue to grow.
If you were seriously injured or a family member died in a crash involving a commercial truck, an overly tired driver may be responsible. Contact an experienced trucking accident lawyer, who can conduct a thorough investigation and represent your legal rights to just compensation.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.
Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog July 11, 2019