Truck driver fatigue and hours-of-service compliance

Truck safety is something that should concern all of us. When truckers aren’t at their best, all motorists are at risk. Federal hours-of-service requirements, detailed as they are, have the goal of ensuring that truckers get the rest they need so that they aren’t putting other driver at risk. These rules, as readers may know, put limits on how many hours truckers may put in on any given day and week and on the length and frequency of rest breaks. These rules, of course, are somewhat burdensome on the trucking industry, which has been resistant about the newest version of the hours-of-service rules since they were implemented last year.

The incidence of truck driver fatigue is sometimes downplayed by the trucking industry, but the Department of Transportation estimates that 13 percent of all truck accidents are caused by driver fatigue. That number may actually be low due to underreporting—official reports only include cases where fatigue has been definitively established.

One of the directions the industry has been moving is toward using electronic devices to record compliance with hours-of-service regulations. This would be a positive thing, assuming the industry doesn’t resist such a chance, since electronic devices can help increase compliance due to the fact that they are harder to tamper with than paper logs.

Resistance to safety within the trucking industry is an issue in all of this. That being said, although the trucking industry can argue about reduced productivity, increased highway congestion and the absurdity of regulating sleep, it is still the case that trucking companies and their drivers are bound by these regulations. Compliance is not optional and truckers can be subject to liability for noncompliance.

Those who are harmed by a fatigued trucker have the right to be compensated for their injuries and losses, and to hold the offending driver accountable. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney in such cases is important, particularly when it comes to establishing noncompliance with federal trucking safety regulations.

Source: New York Times, “Truckers Resist Rules on Sleep, Despite Risks of Drowsy Driving,” Jad Mouawad & Elizabeth A. Harris, June 16, 2014.Nj.com, “Tracy Morgan crash: NTSB says truck driver was speeding and had worked 13 hours straight,” Steve Strunsky, June 19, 2014.