Truck Driver Hours-of-Service Laws: What They Mean for Safety

This Halloween, Michigan State police report that a semi-truck accident forced the I-696 freeway to be shut down for several hours. As CBS Detroit indicated, the semi-truck crash happened when the driver lost control while traveling westbound. The driver was ejected from the vehicle out of the passenger side window and suffered minor injuries, while the truck continued west until it hit the center median and stopped.  time-is-going-1415573-m

This truck accident, fortunately, was not deadly. Tired trucker accident attorneys in Detroit know that accidents involving commercial trucks and other large vehicles account for a disproportionate share of deadly accidents because trucks are so much larger than passenger cars. Unfortunately, these truck accidents have many causes, including drowsy driving. New hours-in-service limitations are designed to reduce the risk of truck accidents caused by fatigued driving, but there is disagreement about whether these rules go too far or not far enough.

Do Hours-in-Service Laws Do Enough to Reduce Truck Accident Risks?

Safety & Health Magazine recently took a close look at the impact of truck driver hours-of-service limits. The new limits:

  • Set a maximum of 11 driving hours per day, which need to be completed within a total of 14 hours after the trucker first comes on duty.
  • Restrict drivers to driving no more than 60 hours of on-duty time over a period of seven days, and no more than 70-hours of service on a period of eight days.
  • Require at least 34 continuous off-duty hours, including two periods between 1:00 and 5:00 a.m. before a driver can reset his weekly drive-time limit.
  • Require a 30-minute break for long-haul drivers after eight hours of time spent on duty.

These limits have been very contentious since first being established in a final rule in December 2011. A spokesperson for the American Trucking Association testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during a hearing on whether the new regulations were necessary or were overly restrictive on drivers. The ATA’s position is that the majority of truckers felt the 34-hour reset rule was too restrictive, and that the new regulations would force them to drive during high traffic times, thus making the roads more dangerous for everyone.

On the other hand, safety groups including the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety believe that the rules do not go far enough to prevent drivers from becoming overworked and fatigued.

These safety advocates express concern that driver’s become dangerously tired after just eight hours of driving, not the 11 hours permitted by FMCSA’s regulations. Even one second of a driver falling asleep when behind the wheel for 11 hours could result in a deadly crash.

While these disputes rage on, the new requirements are now in effect and unlikely to be changed after a last-ditch lawsuit that ended in August with a Court of Appeals decision largely upholding the FMCSA’s regulations. Only a careful study of accident data in the upcoming years will shed light on whether the regulations were helpful or harmful to reducing the number of truck accidents on the road.

Car accident lawyers in Detroit, MI can assist with your car accident case. Call the Law Offices of Gary Bloom today at 1-800-872-7119 for a free case evaluation.

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