In the late morning hours of August 1, 2011, Eddie Wyatt was driving his tractor trailer southbound on I-85 just outside of Anderson, South Carolina. Suddenly, his rig veered off the road. Crossing the median, Wyatt’s truck entered the northbound lanes. Wyatt’s vehicle struck both an SUV and a pick-up truck. Dragging these two vehicles, Wyatt’s rig ultimately collided with another tractor trailer. In the end, Wyatt and two other people were dead. The cause of the accident was driver fatigue.
Though Wyatt’s accident took place in South Carolina, it could have just as easily occurred in Missouri. Drowsy driving – particularly by the drivers of large commercial trucks – poses a serious danger across the United States.
Amendments to Federal Hours of Service Regulations
Last December, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA), the agency that regulates big trucks, proposed changes to the regulations governing truck operations and drivers’ hours of service (HOS). These amendments called for big rig and other commercial vehicle operators to limit themselves to a 10-hour service time. The newly proposed rule mandated other limits, but encouraged more rest time between duty periods for drivers.
Since its announcement, certain special interest groups have opposed the change in the law. Members of the trucking industry believe that the new law will create financial hardships to an industry already affected by the economic downturn. Traffic safety advocates and researchers, however, believe the change is long overdue.
The change was prompted by growing concerns that – while fatalities are decreasing – the incidence of fatigue-related truck crashes are not. Deaths and injuries in big truck accidents are not limited to truckers; the dangers extend to the smaller and more vulnerable people and vehicles that share the roadways.
Truck Accidents Cause Serious Injuries
A truck accident is far from minor. At times, highways have to be shut down as a result, as we have recently seen on I-70 and I-44 in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Crash injuries can range from minor cuts and bruises to broken bones, head trauma and death. Simply put, people get hurt or killed.
Truck driver fatigue puts everyone at risk on our nation’s roadways. While the federal government pushes for regulations to curtail the problem, the trucking industry is ultimately responsible for the risks they present.