Drowsiness and truck crashes: Regulations aim to decrease the risk

Truck drivers are supposed to take breaks while on shift, but do they?

Commercial truck drivers transport goods across the country. Truck drivers generally have a scheduled period of time to get their goods to the final destination. Ideally, these drivers operate efficiently and safely. In reality, the pressure to meet deadlines can lead to poor choices. This is particularly true when it comes to taking a break from driving to get some rest.

The government is well aware of the issue of drowsy truck drivers. There are regulations in place that are designed to help reduce the risk of dangerous, tired big rig drivers on our nation's roadways. One of the more common examples is the hours-of-service regulations.

What are the hours-of-service regulations? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) summarizes the hours-of-service (HOS) as follows:

  • Driving limit. There is a 14 hour period a driver can work. Once 14 hours pass, the driver must take a break.
  • Breaks. Generally, drivers must take at least 30 minutes of rest.
  • Time-off requirements. Essentially, drivers are required to take ten hours off for every 14 hours on.

In theory, these rules sound reasonable. In reality, getting truck drivers and trucking companies to accurately report and follow these rules is not always an easy task.

Is there a way to better ensure these regulations are followed? The FMCSA is considering the use of an electronic logging device (ELD) that will automatically log this information. The agency is currently conducting a study that will gather information on participating drivers' sleeping habits. This data may lead to adjustments in the HOS rules to help better ensure drivers are getting the rest they need.

Does drowsy driving contribute to trucking accidents? Drowsy driving is extremely dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 100,000 crashes are the result of driver fatigue. The agency also notes that this is a conservative estimation.

What if I am a victim of a truck accident? Those who are injured in a truck accident and believe the crash was the fault of the truck driver may be eligible for legal remedies. This can include compensation through a personal injury or wrongful death suit. These legal avenues are available for those seriously injured or who lose a loved one in this type of accident.

These cases generally involve more than just one defendant. It may be tempting to think the driver is the responsible party, but policies for the trucking company as well as the manufacturer of the product the trucker was transporting may have contributed to the accident. As such, it is often wise to seek legal counsel to help better ensure a successful case.

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