Truck driver fatigue can prove deadly. Just this past summer, the problem of driver fatigue made headlines when comedian Tracy Morgan was nearly killed in an accident allegedly caused by a sleep-deprived trucker.
In an effort to combat driver fatigue and ensure tired truckers are not on the roads, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposed new limits on the number of hours that truckers can work per week and the number of hours they can drive before being required to take a 36-hour rest break, including two overnight periods. These limits have been the subject of a great deal of controversy and have been opposed by professional trucking groups, and now some senators are reportedly trying to change the rules. Recent surveys, however, suggest that most drivers of passenger cars would generally prefer stricter regulations.
According to The Hill, senators disagree on the number of hours that truckers should be permitted to drive before taking a rest break. One senator has pushed an amendment to the Senate appropriations bill to limit the number of hours to 82 per week. This is significantly higher than the current limit set by the FMCSA. Two other senators have introduced their own legislation that instead keeps the limit at 70 hours per week.
When members of the public were surveyed in a study commissioned by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition, the research revealed that a full 80 percent of people would feel less safe if drivers of semi-trucks were permitted to drive for longer hours. The same percentage of people are opposed to allowing truckers to drive for more weekly hours than they are currently permitted to drive.
One of the senators seeking to keep the limits at 70 hours has expressed concern that without these limits, truckers would be “relentlessly” pressured by trucking companies to continue to work for more hours, even if they were starting to feel tired. A former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also concerned about trucks turning into “sweatshops on wheels” when trucking company employers are given more leeway to compel truck drivers to stay on the road longer.
When a driver is fatigued, judgment and reflexes are impaired similar to the way a person is impaired by alcohol. Since large truck crashes are so serious, it is a bad idea to take a chance on a trucker getting behind the wheel when fatigued. Drivers need to ensure that they are awake and aware, and if they don’t, they can be held accountable.
Victims of fatigued trucking crashes should contact an accident lawyer to learn more. Contact Howell & Christmas to request a free consultation regarding any vehicle accident.