In February of this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) approved new regulations modifying the number of hours commercial truck drivers can operate a vehicle during a given period of time.
These new hours-of-service (“HOS”) safety requirements became effective yesterday, July 1, 2013, and are intended to reduce the number of accidents caused by driver fatigue. The new regulations are estimated to ultimately save 19 lives and prevent 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year. Further, the regulations will act as a cost-cutting measure. According to Anne S. Ferro, the FMCSA Administrator, the new rules will result in an “estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health.”
Although the regulations have preserved portions of the old rules, e.g. the eleven hour daily driving limit, they have substantially changed most and added new provisions. For example, the new rules cut the maximum number of hours a trucker can drive in a given week from 82 down to 70.
The new provisions also mandate that truckers who have driven eight straight hours take a break of at least thirty minutes before they are permitted to return to work. Also, drivers that wish to “max out” the permissible number of weekly hours must rest a minimum of two nights per week from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., the period which the FMCSA has declared is when the “24-hour body clock demands sleep the most.” This resting restriction is part of the”34-hour restart” program that requires truckers to have at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty to reset the clock on their work week.
In order to ensure compliance with the new regulations, the FMCSA has also instituted harsher penalties for violations of the rules. Trucking companies will now face civil penalties of up to $11,000 and drivers $2,750 for “egregious” violations of the regulations. An egregious violation means driving more than 3 hours beyond the established time limits.
Fatigued truck drivers have been shown to have slower reaction times and exhibit an increased risk of causing an accident. The dangers associated with fatigued driving have been exacerbated by the nature of the industry, which provides financial incentives to drivers that are able to deliver loads faster or in greater quantities. Truckers are able to deliver more loads or cover more miles by driving faster or longer and can earn more money.
Due to the immense weight and considerable size commercial trucks, proper operation of these vehicles is of particular importance. Negligence behind the wheel of such a vehicle can easily result in catastrophic accidents and severe injuries or death.
The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of commercial truck drivers. If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.