A new study concludes that drowsy driving is as dangerous as driving drunk. Then why did Congress recently rollback regulations meant to keep tired truck drivers off the road?
New federal guidelines, called Hours of Service Rules, were enacted in 2013. The rules had several provisions as to how long truck drivers could work each week and when they had to rest. They replaced a less restrictive previous set of rules that was passed a decade earlier.
In the 2013 version, truckers must take a break from driving for 34 hours. This rest period is mandatory after hitting weekly driving hour limits. A trucker’s weekly work clock resets following the mandatory rest period.
The key is that the rest period must contain two consecutive nights that include the period from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration noted that truckers missing these overnight rest times are not getting adequate sleep.
Trucking Lobby Opposed Truck Driver Resting Rule
Trucking industry lobbyists and lawmakers they support fought the new rules. The trucking industry said the two-night rest period was economically inefficient for them.
As a result, in 2014 Congress suspended the two-night rest period and reverted back to the previous mandatory rest period of one night. A short-term federal funding bill passed in early December 2016 included a provision to maintain the suspension until at least late April 2017.
At about the same time, the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety announced the findings of what it calls the first ever study that establishes a cause-and-effect relationship between a lack of sleep and motor vehicle accidents.
Drowsy Drivers Involved in One out of Five Fatal Crashes
Using a baseline of seven hours of sleep, the study found that drivers who slept just one to two hours less doubled their chances for crashing. Those who missed two to three hours of sleep quadrupled their chances – about the same as drunk drivers, according to AAA.
The organization notes that tired drivers are involved in one out of every five fatal motor vehicle accidents.
As the trucking industry’s opposition to a rule aimed at reducing fatigued truck drivers illustrates, trucking companies don’t always place the safety of others above their own economic interests.
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Authored by: Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C. posted in Truck Accidents on Friday, December 16, 2016.