Driver fatigue is a major problem for long-haul truckers and drivers of large commercial trucks, with one Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study suggesting that as many as 6,000 accidents occur each year due to tired truckers.
Our Galveston truck accident lawyers know that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has taken steps to try to reduce the number of truck accidents resulting from driver fatigue. In 2011, the FMCSA passed rules setting new hours-of-service limits for all commercial motor vehicles. Truckers and trucking companies, however, were given a year-and-a-half to actually implement these new rules. The rules went into effect on the 1st of July and are currently applicable to all commercial truckers.
New Hours of Service Rules Face Challenges But May Help to Reduce Accidents
The new hours of service rules reduce the average work week hours from a prior limit of 82 hours down to 70 hours. After drivers have driven for the maximum of 70 hours, drivers can resume driving only after they have taken a 32 hour continual rest break. This rest break must include two full nights of rest.
The FMCSA also impose a new requirement mandating that drivers need to take at least a 30-minute meal break during the first eight hours of driving. This ensures that drivers remain rested, well-fed and focused on the road.
According to Truck News, these regulations were challenged by trucking industry groups in court. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its ruling late in July, retaining the new rules with just one small change. The court struck down the required 30-minute break for short-haul drivers, but not for long-haul drivers. The other rules and limitations remained in tact.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) spoke out about its disappointment that the court had upheld the FMCSA rules, calling the FMCSA's rule-making "agenda-driven," and questioning how the FMCSA went about implementing the new hours-of-service rules. The ATA also indicated that the court recognized shortcomings in the FMCSA's deliberations when drafting the new hours of service rules and expressed a hope that the FMCSA would do more substantial research in the future.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) also was unhappy with the ruling because of a belief that drivers need flexibility to do their jobs safely. However, the OOIDA acknowledged that the court's ruling had ended disputes over the issue and the new FMCSA rules will stand. The OOIDA now plans to move on to improving basic training standards for new drivers as part of its focus on preventing accident.
While the ATA and the OOIDA are naturally lobbying against new hours of service regulations as they could cost truckers money and make their jobs harder, there are unquestionably strong benefits to the FMCSA's new hours of service rules.
Since the rules require more rest breaks, it seems likely that they could have a substantial impact on reducing the number of fatigued-driving accidents that occur. Now that the rule is in effect, accident data can be kept in order to determine if the new rules in fact result in this positive outcome.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, contact Hagood & Neumann at (800) 632-9404. Offices in Houston and Galveston.