Truck Driver Fatigue / Hours-of-Service Rules
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Large trucks haul the majority of freight transported in the U.S. In 2003, large trucks (also known as big rigs, tractor trailers, semis, and 18 wheelers) hauled over nine billion tons with revenues totaling $610 billion. Trucking revenues are expected to nearly double by 2015. This makes for a strong financial motive for truckers to drive longer hours with shorter breaks.
But there are more than financial incentives that encourage truckers to drive longer hours. A trucker may “push through” to avoid rush hour traffic snarls, be anxious to get home for the weekend, or try to make up for time lost due to bad weather. On average, a trucker drives 125,000 miles a year.
Whatever the reason, with the continuously increasing number of trucks on our roads, truck driver fatigue is a public safety issue. When driving excessive weekly and daily work hours, commercial drivers significantly increase the risk of a truck accident or crash that may result in serious injuries or death.
After a study by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Board concluded that the factors that best predicted fatigue-related accidents were:
- The duration of the most recent sleep period
- The amount of sleep in the past 24 hours
- Whether the sleep occurred in one long period or if it was split into shorter periods of time
Because of these findings, the NTSB requested that the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revise the hours-of-service regulations so drivers could get eight hours of continuous sleep, and to discontinue the sleeper berth exemption that allows drivers to split their minimum daily rest requirement into two separate periods.
In January, 2004, drivers of commercial trucks subject to Title 49 were required to have ten consecutive hours off-duty to qualify for a new work period. But the number of hours they are allowed to drive in a 24-hour period also increased to 11 hours. And while these rules have helped reduce the number of accidents, the NTSB still blames driver fatigue as a likely factor in 20-40% of truck accidents.
Since there are numerous factors affecting a driver’s hours of service, the FMCSA additionally requires that drivers maintain logs and retain expense receipts and other paperwork that track their hours of service. Unfortunately, lack of enforcement has created an attitude among many drivers and carriers that views violations as “the cost of doing business.”
If you or a loved one has been in an accident involving a commercial truck, you should consult with a truck accident attorney with the resources and experience required to win, or successfully settle, a truck accident lawsuit. Please call or email us and we will help you find an experienced truck accident attorney near you.