Amid concerns that large trucks driven by tired operators pose a greater-than-ever risk to Florida motorists, federal officials are contemplating loosening existing rules. As our West Palm Beach truck accident lawyers well know, driver fatigue is cited in hundreds of the thousands of deadly truck crashes each year.
Despite the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Carrier’s implementation of many new rules and regulations pertaining to trucking rules and regulation – including Hours of Service rules designed to reduce drowsy driver accidents, there has been a 20 percent jump in the number of commercial truck crashes over the last 10 years.
Rules such as those for Hours of Service and mandated electronic logging devices (ELD) were introduced to curb the practices of so many trucking carriers that reward drivers based not only the amount of time they drive, but rather on the miles driven. Many industries truck drivers to push the envelope to make their living.
Hours of Service Rules and Truck Driver Monitoring
The cap on drive time requires truck drivers stop and rest for at least one half hour after the first 11 hours on the clock and then stop driving altogether 14 hours in.
Some drivers and carriers say flexibility is needed, as truck drivers may be in inconvenient or even unsafe locations when their hours-of-service are up. The Safety Policy for American Trucking Associations lobby has pushed hard for an ease of the hours-of-service rules that started being enforced by federal regulators in late 2017.
As our West Palm Beach truck accident lawyers know well, such measures were deemed necessary because prior to that time, these “rules” were more like suggestions, with paper logs of trucker drive time often referred to as “comic books” – for how wildly off-base they were with actual drive-time.
An analysis of why large trucks crash, conducted by the FMCSA in 2007, revealed truck driver fatigue was consistently listed in the top 10 reasons why truck drivers collided with other motorists.
The industry now says the regulation pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, with drivers counting down the minutes and seconds of each shift, rather than stopping to rest at a reasonable, safe juncture.
The question, however, is whether truck drivers are considered the best judges of what is “reasonable” and “safe” when their pay is contingent on how many miles they cross, rather than how many hours they work.
FMCSA Exceptions Weighed by Feds
The previous rules were set under the Obama administration. Now, under the Trump administration, the FMCSA is reconsidering some exceptions. Some of the mandates up for debate:
- The mandatory half hour rest break;
- Allowing truck drivers to break up their sleep time;
- Giving truckers more freedom to avoid rush hour traffic.
Most truckers say they would rather avoid passenger vehicles if they can help it, and relaxing these standards would allow them to do so. However, it also increases the likelihood that truck drivers will be pressured into a dangerous, high-pressure cycle of too much driving on not-enough sleep.
An 80,000-pound semi-truck can be loads more lethal than a car, and a tired trucker is responsible for at least one motorist death daily. Trucking safety advocates say there isn’t enough evidence that relaxing these standards would do much – if anything – to improve safe driving for truckers.
On the contrary, some say if there are going to be any changes in trucking regulations, they should be even more stringent, given sharp uptick in deadly truck crashes and the fact that the safety of everyone who shares a road with a truck driver is at-risk.
The FMCSA is expected to issue an advance notice of new proposed rule-making on the hours-of-service operations, which will open the door to public comment. Truck safety advocates say they will be battling a relaxation of the rules every step of the way.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Trump Administration Poised To Relax Trucking Safety Rules Despite Warnings, July 30, 2019, NPR