Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Reduces Trucker’s Weekly Hours

You don’t have to be a commercial truck driver to know about driver fatigue. We’ve all been there, whether driving home from work, or the long trip home from school – when your eyes become heavy and that cup of coffee doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. Under these conditions, drivers are much less aware and highway accidents are much more likely to occur.

While casual drivers might have the luxury of switching drivers, or pulling off the road when driver fatigue sets in, commercial drivers are not so lucky. Which is why the federal government is working to create new regulations that work towards preventing driver fatigue for commercial truck drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) introduced new rules limiting the amount of daily and weekly hours truck drivers are allowed to be behind the wheel.

According to the 2011 HOS RIA -Main Document.pdf, truck drivers may be on the road for up to 11 hours per day. In addition, after every eight hours shift, truck drivers are required to take a minimum 30 minute break before they are able to get back on the road. And while the 11 hour daily limit may seem high, the FMCSA did reduce the maximum hours a truck driver can be on the road for the whole week by 12 hours from prior rules, setting the new weekly limit at 70 hours.

The hope is that the new rules will decrease the number of trucking accidents. In 2010, the number of deaths resulting from trucking accident rose by almost nine percent from just a year earlier, putting the annual number of trucking deaths at 3,675. A government safety data report indicated that about one or two percent of those truck-related deaths are due to truck driver’s fatigue. And sadly, it is not normally the truck driver who suffers the most; rather the majority of those killed were occupants of passenger vehicles.

In many cases truck drivers are responsible for regulating their own driving hours, especially those doing cross-country trips. Truck drivers are required to keep a detailed log documenting not only when they are on the road, but also the time of any breaks. And because the truck driver time limits are part of larger safety regulations, there can be potentially fatal consequences when commercial drivers fail to comply.

Take for instance a bus driver who falsified his log book by not documenting additional driving hours he picked up. Later that same day he was involved in a tragic bus crash that left several of his passengers dead. So while truck companies might complain about the limits placed on truck driver hours, those in favor of the shorter driving days argue that these limits will increase driver safety and limit the number of trucking accidents caused by driver fatigue.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois trucking accidents cases for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Inverness, Libertyville, Mt. Prospect, Vernon Hills, Waukegan, Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, Blue Island, and Burr Ridge.

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