The rules regulating the hours long-haul truck drivers can spend behind the wheel may be getting some modifications, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Truckers now must follow a set of requirements that limit them to drive no more than 11 hours at one time with at least a half-hour nap during that period, regardless of any down time they may have had along their route. Drivers cannot drive more than 14 total hours after first getting behind the wheel.
Federal regulators are considering allowing exceptions to the current Hours in Service rules to give drivers more flexibility in their schedules. Some drivers are saying because the rules are so strict, they sometimes find themselves in unsafe driving conditions, like being stuck in rush-hour commuter traffic. Others are concerned that the current rules mean they must stop in areas that are not properly suited or unsafe for parking a big rig.
Before 2017, truck drivers were supposed to carry a logbook to keep track of when and where they started and stopped their routes, and the number and duration of rest periods on the road. Now, their travels are monitored by an electronic monitoring device that tracks their every movement digitally. Infractions can lead to fines or retribution by the company they drive for.
As could be expected, truck safety advocates oppose the relaxing of drive time and work limitations, claiming they will lead to even more motor vehicle crashes involving big rigs.
Several studies have been done which indicate that one of the leading causes of crashes involving large trucks is driver fatigue, which is what brought about the stricter rules in 2017, under the Obama administration. Truckers are rewarded for the efficiency in which they get their payload from point A to point B, and back their home base. It's not based on the number of hours they drive, but more on the number of miles they cover in those hours. The industry rewards drivers who can make the same trip in fewer hours than another driver, which some feel makes them more likely to make riskier driving decisions.
The current rules do not allow any adjustments to trucker's driving and rest schedules, like splitting up their rest times into smaller segments. They claim the 11-hour mandate for continuous over-the-road travel means they are often required to stop in unsafe areas.
And although many organizations say a relaxation of the current rules under the Trump administration will make our roads more dangerous, the fact is that the current rules have done little to reduce the numbers of serious truck crashes.
Truck Crashes by The Numbers
Here are some statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses:
- There were 4,889 fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses in 2017, up 9% from the previous year
- From 2009 to 2017, fatal crashes jumped by 40%
- Crashes involving injuries soared 62% between 2009 and 2015
- 57% of all fatal truck or bus accidents occur in rural areas
- 35% of fatal truck or bus crashes occurred at night
- 27% of fatal truck or bus crashes happened on an Interstate Highway
- Speeding was the leading factor for fatal crashes in 2017
- Distraction / Inattention was the second most common factor
Trucking accident lawyer and partner at the Goldberg Noone Law Firm, Mike Noone, points out what we all see everyday while on Southwest Florida roads.
“Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties are once again seeing accelerated growth in terms of new residential and commercial development, major road projects and other factors that involve large trucks on the road,” Noone points out. “It only stands to reason that more large trucks attempting to share the road with more passenger vehicles can lead to more serious crashes.” He goes on to say that tired or fatigued truckers who are continually pressured to deliver their loads in an unreasonable amount of time can lead to devastating fatalities for others on the road.
“Our firm has handled a number of lawsuits involving a large commercial truck of one kind or another that collided with a typical passenger car, and believe me, that is a whole different scenario than a crash between two cars,” says Noone. “That being said, drivers need to be more aware of large trucks around them, and recognize they need much more distance to stop because of how heavy they are. Stop darting in and out of traffic lanes and give the large trucks some extra distance between your car and the truck.”
In crashes involving a large commercial truck, there are many different factors that can come into play regarding seeking financial compensation for your injuries from the responsible party or parties. Things like how the truck was maintained, how the driver was trained and more will all become important keys in the investigation of a large truck crash. You can read more about that here.
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Being involved in any type of large truck crash will leave you with a million questions, and a world of confusion. It never costs a thing to pick up the phone and give us a call to talk about your specific situation, and let us determine how we can help. We are experts in injury crashes involving big rigs, and our attorneys and team of large truck crash specialists can help you receive the financial compensation you may be entitled to under the law. Call our Fort Myers office at 239-461-5508, or just complete the form on the right side of this page, and we'll contact you immediately.