Effective July 1, truck drivers can only operate for 70 hours a week and will be forced to take more breaks and rest before getting on the road. According to a news report in The Wall Street Journal, the new regulations would effectively cap a driver’s average workweek at 70 hours, down from the previous maximum of 82.
Federal officials say these changes will help prevent the many truck accidents that are caused each year by sleep-deprived big rig drivers. Trucking companies of course have been vociferously protesting these sweeping changes, which took effect, saying that they will cost money by requiring more trucks to carry the same number of loads.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is going to get a lot stricter with drivers’ work logs by checking them more often to ensure that diligent reporting is taking place. While previously, truck drivers could restart their workweek any time they took off 34 consecutive hours, now they can restart their week only once every seven days irrespective of how many breaks they take. Violations could result in fines of up to $11,000 for the trucking firms and $2,750 for individual drivers per offense. Truck drivers say these rules will upend schedules and slash pay for long-haul drivers.
The Issue of Fatigued Driving
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 3,887 people were killed in truck accidents during the year 2012. Although the department does not have precise statistics with regard to fatigue-related crashes, it cites a study showing that roughly 13 percent of large truck crashes involve sleep-deprived drivers.
A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) shows that many drivers, particularly those who operate at night, averaged less than six hours of sleep. The American Trucking Associations’ study found that truck drivers average between 6.2 and 7 hours of sleep. Federal regulators say they believe that these new regulations will save lives by taking tired truckers off our roadways.
Truck Accident Liability Issues
When a fatigued truck driver causes an injury crash, both the driver and his or her employer can be held liable for the injuries, damages and losses caused. Large truck accidents often result in catastrophic injuries for occupants of other vehicles due to the sheer size and weight of the big rigs. Often fatigued truck drivers rear-end other vehicles at a high rate of speed or cross over into opposing lanes of traffic causing a head-on collision. These types of crashes are often fatal. Injured victims or families of deceased victims would be well advised to contact an experienced California truck accident lawyer who will conduct a thorough investigation and ensure that negligent drivers and their employers are held accountable.