Drowsy truck drivers caused around 12 percent of the 129,120 total trucking collisions that occurred nationwide in 2012. When a trucker is fatigued, he may fall asleep behind the wheel or may simply suffer from delayed reaction time.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has tried to prevent truck accidents caused by drowsy driving with hours-of-service rules and other regulations aimed to limiting drive time. Unfortunately, as Fox News reports, there are concerns that it is too easy for truckers to fake compliance with these rules and thus to drive when they are too tired to do so safely.
While a tired trucker and his employer can be sued with the help of a Boston tractor-trailer accident attorney, it is best to prevent collisions before they occur. To this end, FMCSA has now proposed electronic monitoring in order to ensure that truckers actually follow the hours-of-service limitations.
Truckers Can Cheat at Hours-of-Service Rule Compliance
FMCSA updated hours-of-service rules, with new limits going into effect in July of 2013. The new rules made many changes criticized by professional trucking organizations. For example, the rules require a 34-hour rest break including two periods between the hours of 1:00 and 5:00 a.m. The rest break is mandated after 60 hours of driving per week or after 70 hours of driving over an eight-day period. FMCSA also limited drivers to 11 hours of driving and 14-total hours of on-duty time, and said long haul truckers have to take a ½ hour break after eight hours of drive time. Some argued this would impede productivity and force drivers to be on the roads at peak times.
Truckers have to keep written logbooks of their time on duty, both to show when they were driving and how long they drove. Unfortunately, drivers who don't like the hours-of-service rules often cheat. For example, drivers could lie about when or if they took their rest break or if they had overnight periods they were off. Drivers could drive for longer than they should, even if they are getting tired. Trucking companies may have an incentive to encourage their drivers to be dishonest, especially as Business Week reports that there is a growing shortage of qualified truckers in the United States.
Unfortunately, the hours-of-service rules are effective only if drivers follow them. Safety advocates have thus long argued for electronic monitoring as a means of making sure the rules are obeyed. Two years ago, President Obama took action on this issue and FMCSA's new proposed rule is in response to the President's directive.
There are a lot of critics who don't want electronic monitoring, but there are also powerful advocates. Many companies have already switched to voluntary electronic monitoring, and if all companies did then the playing field would be more level and the roads safer. FMCSA also indicates that 20 deaths and 434 injuries could be prevented annually with electronic monitoring, resulting in a total safety benefit equaling $394.8 million. It will take time for the proposed rule to move forward, but hopefully it will soon be an effective way to reduce drowsy driving crashes among professional truckers.
Boston accident victims may contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1.