Fatigued Truck Drivers: A Serious Problem
Officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) are becoming increasingly concerned with the number of highway crashes that are occurring because a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel. The agency has been working for decades to put regulations in place to make sure truck drivers get sufficient rest, but commercial truck drivers have tended to push back because, as they see it, time is money.
With the recent deadly accident on the New Jersey Turnpike that put comedian Tracy Morgan into intensive care, more attention is being paid to the issue of exhausted truck drivers. According to the prosecutors who are investigating the accident, the driver of the Walmart tractor-trailer that crashed into Morgan’s van had not slept at all in more than 24 hours.
According to the DOT, “drowsy driving” is cited as a cause in nearly 13 percent of all highway fatalities every year. With more than 30,000 traffic fatalities annually, that means about 4,500 people die in accidents involving a driver who is operating a motor vehicle on inadequate sleep. It’s also possible the problem is underreported. In their 2006 project, the Large-Truck Crash Causation Study, DOT officials suggested that the number may be much higher, because truck drivers are understandably reluctant to admit they were sleepy at the time of the accident.
Last year, the rules were changed to limit the maximum work hours from 82 hours per week to 70 for commercial truckers. Those who reach the maximum must have a mandatory 34-hour resting period before beginning a new work week. The new rules also require the “restart” to include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., which will mean a driver must have at least two nights rest every week. In addition, drivers are limited to operating their vehicles for no more than 11 hours each day and must have at least one 30-minute break built into that time.
With the rules changes, however, the pushback from the trucking industry has been strong. Their main objection seems to be with the nighttime-break regulations, which they say would result in more trucks being on the highways during the day, when there is a lot more traffic. Trucking industry officials have suggested that drivers need flexibility in their work schedules and should not be told exactly when to rest.
Whether these rules or other measures are the solution to the problem of drowsy truck drivers on the road, something has to be done about this problem before it kills even more people. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in an accident involving a large truck and a potentially exhausted driver, please contact the Truck Accident Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm s quickly as possible, so that we can help you protect your rights under the law.