The Effectiveness Of Driver Rest Regulations In Lowering Number Of Accidents

Dallas, 12/27/2016 /SubmitPressRelease123/

The Dallas Truck Wreck lawyers at 1-800-Truck-Wreck are examining the effects of electronic logging devices (ELDs) installed in commercial trucks to determine whether this technology is helping to lower truck accidents.

One of the biggest contributing factors to commercial truck accidents is driver fatigue.

But the problem with driver fatigue is that it doesn’t just lead to drivers who fall asleep momentarily behind the wheel, or who are less alert, it also creates other factors that cause truck accidents.

For example, driver fatigue impairs judgment, which means that it can lead to dangerous behavior such as unsafe lane change, failure to obey traffic sign and failure to maintain speed.

In response, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) instituted hours of service regulations that mandated rest periods after a specific number of hours that a truck driver has been on the road.

Hours of Service Regulations

In 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented new Hours of Service regulations for all drivers of commercial vehicles, including big trucks.

The rule applied to any commercial vehicle involved in interstate commerce that fit one of these categories:

  • 10,001 pounds or more in weight
  • Gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight of 10,001 or more
  • Transports 16 or more passengers (without a fee)
  • Transports 9 or more passengers for a fee
  • Transports hazardous material that requires a warning sign

For commercial truck drivers, the regulations created a 14-hour window, an 11-hour driving limit, and 60/70 hours-per-week on-duty limits.

During the 14-hour window, commercial truck drivers are allowed to drive a total of 11 hours if they have been off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours before that 14-hour window begins.

After the 14-consecutive-hour window ends, truck drivers cannot operate their vehicles again until they have remained off duty for another 10 consecutive hours.

The 14-hour window is longer than the 11-hour driving limit, because it takes into account rest periods, lunches, dinners and other activities that do not include actual driving.

One example illustrates how this would work:

After being off duty for 10 consecutive hours, a truck driver starts work at 7 a.m. That driver is allowed to operate that vehicle until 9 p.m. that night, which is 14 hours later. However, the driver is only allowed 11 hours of driving time during that 14-hour window.

The driver may not do any driving of any kind after 9 p.m., although he/she is permitted to do other work such as maintenance that does not involve driving.

The next time that truck driver can operate that truck would be at 7 a.m. the next morning, which is 10 consecutive hours off duty.

The 11-hour driving limit stipulates that no commercial truck driver can sit behind the wheel and drive for more than 11 hours.

The driver is mandated to take a 30-minute rest period after eight or more consecutive hours of driving have passed since the last rest period.

The 60/70 hours-per-week on-duty limit gives commercial truck drivers two choices: 60 hours of driving during any seven consecutive days, or 70 hours of driving during any eight consecutive days.

Daily Logs

The 2012 FMCSA hours of service regulations required that commercial truck drivers keep track of their rest periods and driving time in a daily log that is subject to inspection by government officials.

But the issue with daily logs is that some truck drivers do not accurately or truthfully record their driving time and rest periods, which means that the logbooks are not a reflection of how long those drivers were actually driving.

ELDs Are Now Required

To combat the incidences of inaccurate logbooks, the FMCSA recently passed a new proposal requiring the installation of ELDs in all commercial trucks by December 2017.

An ELD can interface with a truck’s engine to record hours driven, rest periods and other important data that conforms to inspection requirements.

Is the Wrong Problem Being Addressed?

But the question remains:  How effective are these hours of service regulations in actually lowering the rate of accidents?

A cursory glance at the 2015 USDOT motor vehicle accident report shows that the number of commercial truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers did not decrease significantly from 2014, nor did the number of fatigue-caused truck accidents in 2014 show a marked improvement from 2013.

In other words, for all the dangers posed by exhaustion among truck drivers, the real issue may not be the exhaustion among these men and women, but what is causing them to risk road safety by driving even when they know they are tired?

“What we’ve seen in the past decade is that driver fatigue is a huge problem with commercial truck drivers,” stated Dallas truck wreck attorney Amy Witherite, partner at Eberstein Witherite, LLP, a personal injury law firm with offices in Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth, as well as in Atlanta, Georgia. “The government has tried to combat this issue with proposals such as speed limiters in these vehicles that would prevent big trucks from exceeding a preset speed, and especially with hours of service regulations that now include electronic logging devices that record the time when a truck is in operation and alert drivers when it’s time to take a break. But to me, the real issue isn’t the fact that commercial drivers are exhausted, it’s why are they so tired, and what can we do to eliminate that cause?”

Witherite is referring to the fact that many commercial truck drivers are under tremendous pressure to make deliveries.

Truck carriers are not simply paid by the amount of cargo they are delivering to a location; they are largely paid premiums to deliver that cargo in the shortest amount of time possible.

Whether that urgency is to meet a client’s immediate demand for product, or is due to the perishable nature of the cargo that truck drivers are delivering, the fact is, many truck carriers demand that their drivers make delivery times above all else.

And that pressure to make a delivery on time has spurred many truck drivers to do whatever they can to bypass rest regulations so that they don’t lose their jobs by not meeting a delivery schedule.

In theory, rest regulations are supposed to keep exhausted drivers off the road, but in reality, how effective can these regulations be if truck drivers simply decide to ignore an ELD alert or a call from their supervisors asking that they stop to rest?

The very nature of commercial truck driving throughout the U.S. these days is one of urgency and timeliness, and that isn’t likely to change.

Millions of truck drivers are given conflicting directives: stay safe on the road, but do everything you can to make that delivery, or else.

When economic livelihood is at stake, most people will do whatever is necessary to ensure survival, and unfortunately, truck drivers risk the lives of others when they make the choice to drive when they are exhausted.

“Without having a tag-team system of some sort in which two drivers take turns hauling cargo, it is going to be very difficult to lower these incidents of driver fatigue-caused truck wrecks,” Witherite added. “The mentality that many truck carriers create is that of a race to the finish line, and they offer bonuses to drivers who can get the cargo to the delivery site on time or even a few hours before the scheduled time of delivery. The other side of that is truck drivers who actually try to follow the rules and get the proper amount of rest may not make those delivery windows, and that can mean they get fired for prioritizing safety over delivery time. It’s a persistent problem that will require a real culture-change in the mindset of the majority of truck carriers, who often only pay lip service to the safety of their drivers and other motorists on the road.”

How a Lawyer Can Help After a Truck Wreck

Despite all these safeguards, truck accidents are still a major threat on the nation’s roads, and the worst part is that commercial truck drivers are 11 times more likely to survive an accident they cause than the people in the vehicles that they hit.

That’s why it’s so important that truck wreck victims contact a personal injury lawyer immediately after an accident. Those moments of chaos and confusion following a truck accident are vital in securing evidence, getting witness statements and making sure that truck company investigators don’t intimidate truck accident victims.

Call 1800 Truck Wreck

If you live in Houston, Fort Worth, Texarkana, Dallas, Lubbock or El Paso, and you have been injured in a truck wreck, call 1-800-Truck-Wreck and talk to one of the Dallas truck accident lawyers at Eberstein Witherite. We have spent decades helping people just like you recover from these accidents and regain their peace of mind. Call us today or complete this form, and someone from our firm will contact you and provide a free consultation. 

Media Contact
Lucy Tiseo

Eberstein & Witherite, LLP

Phone: 800-878-2597

Email: [email protected]

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