Do hours-of-service rules keep drowsy drivers off the road?

As a follow up on our recent post about driver fatigue, we look at rules designed to prevent it.

Truck driving is a job that requires long hours and pressure to be on time. Maneuvering a large rig down busy city streets or a crowded highway is no easy task. Being sleepy on the job isn’t good for anyone. But in the trucking industry driver fatigue is especially dangerous.

Setting the rules

Fatigue was listed as a factor in nearly 4,000 fatalities caused by large truck crashes. Because of this, The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted hours-of-service rules.

Some of the more notable ones include:

  • Limiting truck drivers to a 70 hour workweek, down from 82 hours
  • Requiring drivers to take a 30-minute break sometime in the first eight hours of their shift
  • Redefining the “restart” rule to require a 34-hour rest period, once every seven days, including two rest periods between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
  • Enforcement of an 11-hour daily driving limit within a 14 hour work day

The majority of truck drivers experienced little to no change to their actual work routine, as the rules only impacted about 15 percent of drivers. The important impact is with safety — saving an estimated 19 lives a year, and preventing 560 injuries and 1400 crashes.

Making the rules stick

As with any government regulation, the trucking industry has had a mixed reaction to the regulations. In order to reinforce the fact that these rules need to be taken seriously, both drivers and trucking companies can be hit with financial penalties if they are caught violating the rules. A trucking company that encourages its drivers to push the limits can be fined up to $11,000.

Accidents still happen with or without regulation, completely preventing fatigued driving is impossible. Drivers are certain to use some of their rest period for purposes other than sleep. Others will try to push in an extra hour here and there, thinking they’ll be okay, and not admitting otherwise until an accident happens.

While some of the injuries and fatalities happen to the drivers themselves, others find themselves in dangerous situations they never signed up for. If you or a loved one were hurt in one of these accidents, Rush & Gransee, L.C. can investigate how the accident happened and whether safety regulations were violated. We have the experience to protect your rights and fight for the fair compensation you deserve.