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Combating Trucker Fatigue

July 11, 2013 Posted By Vanguard Attorneys

Long-range truck drivers who frequently travel at night may now be able to get a little more sleep.

This is because new rules are in effect to govern how long truckers can stay on the road without a break.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the new rules designed to improve safety for the motoring public by reducing truck driver fatigue on July 1.

The FMCSA’s new hours-of-service final rule:

  • Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours;
  • Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most – from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., and;
  • Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

It’s estimated that these changes will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.

According to the FMCSA release, working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious health conditions in drivers.

“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new rules are considered the most significant changes in a decade,” Fox 2 Now, a local television station out of St. Louis, Missouri reported, but some in the trucking industry say that the new rules won’t work.

Bill Frerichs, owner Frerichs Freight Lines in Belleville, told Fox 2 Now that they will need to hire more drivers and use more trucks to accomplish the same amount of work, which will cost everybody.

Nevertheless, the new federal regulations are stringent. Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense. The drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Studies show that driver fatigue among truckers as well regular car drivers can lead to inattention, diminished vigilance and ultimately a serious crash leading to serious injury or death.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident due to a drowsy or distracted driver, please contact us.

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