Just last year, new laws were put in place regarding the number of hours commercial truck drivers can spend on the road during the work week. The laws were designed to decrease the number of accidents caused by sleep-deprived drivers dozing off at the wheel, and thus promote public safety. Under the 2013 laws, drivers were allowed to drive for a maximum of 11 hours per day, and 70 hours per week. Drivers who reached the 70 hour maximum within a week could resume work only after taking a 34 hour break, including two nights of rest from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
This week, however, a provision included in the new spending bill passed in Congress will suspend some of these safety rules, pending a study of their effectiveness. Under the new rules, truckers could conceivably work up to 82 hours per week, and are no longer required to have two nights of rest before returning to work.
Those in Favor of Suspending Trucking Safety Measures
The author of this provision is Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). According to Collins, the previous rest-rules had some unforeseen consequences that demand further study. She argues that the safest time for truckers to be on the road is overnight, when there are fewer passenger vehicles and less traffic. The previous regulation, she says, ended up forcing more truck drivers to operate during daytime hours when highways are more congested, thereby increasing the risk of accidents.
Collins’s amendment is supported by the trucking industry and the American Trucking Association, while safety advocacy groups like the Truck Safety Coalition and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, as well as Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, fervently oppose it.
Those Opposed, and “Seriously Concerned”
“I am seriously concerned that this suspension will put lives at risk,” Foxx said last week, urging lawmakers to drop the measure.
Jackie Gillan, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, stated, “We’re appalled at the deal-making and horse-trading behind closed doors and out of the public view. Some elected officials think it’s acceptable to bend to the demands of corporate trucking interests, and it’s acceptable to make political bargains that have life and death consequences.”
“This is a major step backwards,” said Daphne Izer of Lisbon, Maine, who founded Parents Against Tired Truckers.
Driver Fatigue Leads to Truck Accidents
The concern about truck driver fatigue is certainly not unfounded. Long-haul truckers are under pressure to meet deadlines and are typically paid by the mile; they only get paid for time spent driving. Too often, tired drivers opt to stay at the wheel rather than rest, and end up drifting off to sleep and off of the road.
Trucking safety regulations drew public attention in June, 2014, when an accident involving a Wal Mart truck seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed James McNair. The truck driver allegedly fell asleep at the wheel after having gone more than 24 hours without sleep, and rammed into the actors’ limousine.
At our firm alone, we have seen numerous truck accident cases in which a drowsy driver was to blame for devastating damage. In October of this year, attorneys Marion Munley, Caroline Munley, and Julia Munley achieved a settlement of $3.8 million for their client who was involved in a devastating crash with two tractor trailers. Kyle Kelly, then 23, was driving home from work at approximately 3 a.m. when a tractor trailer crossed the highway median and struck Kelly’s vehicle. Disabled in the roadway, Kelly was then hit by a second large truck traveling at 67 mph. Cases like this one refute arguments that disregard the danger posed by sleep-deprived truckers.
If you or a loved one have been in an accident involving a large truck, contact the experienced truck accident lawyers at Munley Law by calling 855-866-5529.