And one of the main causes of wrecks that lawyers miss
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is the federal body that makes and enforces national laws for commercial motor vehicles, is coming clean about truck driver fatigue.
In a recent published statement, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx discussed truck accident deaths and the Administration’s commitment to preventing them:
“Nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year and driver fatigue is a leading factor. “
In December of 2011, the FMCSA issued a new rule to stop fatigued driving by making changes to the “hours of service” rules for truck drivers. The rule boiled down to two updated requirements, which reduced the average maximum week a driver could work from 82 hours to 70 hours:
- A 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their shift so they can stay alert on the road.
- The use of the 34-hour rest period, known as the “restart,” which restricted drivers to using the restart only once every seven days and required the restart period include at least two periods of rest between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
But truckers are still driving fatigued – and lawyers are still missing this in legal discovery
The FMSCA stated that while the new hours of service rules were designed to reduce truck accidents caused by drowsy driving, they identified further problems through studies and truck inspections:
“… a segment of the industry was often operating at the maximum hours allowed. It was also revealed that some truckers operating under the old rules were adding one full work shift per week.”
As an attorney who has been litigating truck accident cases for 20 years, and as a past-president of the American Association for Justice Interstate Truck Litigation Group, I’m familiar with the issue. Many of my more serious truck accident cases were caused when truck drivers were driving well over hours, or simply didn’t get enough rest. Foxx stated one of the serious problems with truck driver fatigue, which is its affect on truck drivers’ ability to assess situations and their own fatigue levels:
“That fatigue leads drivers to have slower reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations quickly. One of the most dangerous elements of fatigue is how quickly it can sneak up on vehicle operators, be they car drivers or truck drivers. The research revealed that truck drivers (like most people) often can’t assess their own fatigue levels accurately and are therefore unaware that their performance has degraded. Too often, fatigued drivers fail to notice that they are drifting between lanes.”
I’ve voiced my opinion on restricting the hours of service even further. Now, there are efforts in Congress to suspend the update to the restart provision through a rider that could be included in the final Appropriations bill for the year. It would allow a segment of the trucking industry to operate an average of as many as 82 hours per week.
The FMSCA, is also strongly against this rider.