Suspension in truck driver rest regulations may mean more accidents

A recent suspension of the HOS rules may mean more fatigued truck drivers.

The job of an interstate truck driver is not a 9 to 5 job; it often requires long and irregular hours to meet delivery deadlines. As a result, the problem of driver fatigue permeates the industry, which can put others on the road in danger. According to the Department of Transportation, 13 percent of truck drivers involved in a truck accident were fatigued at the time.

In order to protect other motorists from the danger of driver fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is tasked with implementing hours-of-service regulation (HOS). These HOS regulations control, among other things, the number of hours a truck driver may work in a week and the times at which drivers must take rest breaks. Unfortunately, Congress recently suspended a portion of these rules, which may lead to more fatigue-related truck accidents.

About the suspension

At the end of last year, Congress passed a law that suspended portions of the previous HOS rules in an omnibus spending bill. Specifically, the law suspends the previous rule regarding overnight rest periods. Under the law in effect before the suspension, truck drivers had to begin their 70-hour workweeks with a 34-hour rest break. Under the rules, the rest break had to include two consecutive overnight periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. The theory behind this requirement was that the body is in most need of rest during this period, so requiring drivers to rest during this time would lead to better rested drivers and fewer accidents.

The recently passed law did away with the nighttime rest period requirement. Under the HOS rules now in effect, drivers no longer must schedule their rest periods during this period. Additionally, they may start a new workweek more than one time per week (provided that they take the 34-hour rest period), which effectively lifts the previous 70-hour cap. Under the new rules, drivers may conceivably work up to 82 hours per week.

Effects on safety

As to be expected, the trucking industry supports the changes and maintains that it will decrease truck accidents. It reasons that the nighttime rest breaks caused more truck drivers to drive during rush hour and other peak traffic times. Since the new rules allow more driving at night when the roads are less busy, it believes that the number of truck accidents will decrease.

However, the FMCSA defends the previous HOS rules, saying that the overnight rest period requirement led to less fatigued drivers. The agency estimates that the previous rules eliminated 1,400 accidents per year, preventing 560 injuries and saving 19 lives. Unfortunately, only time will tell which group is correct. In the meantime, motorists in Ohio potentially may be harmed by more fatigued truck drivers on the roads.

Get legal help if you are in an accident

When truck drivers drive without sufficient rest, they may be considered negligent under the law. However, this fact may only come to light after a thorough investigation. If you or a loved one is involved in a truck accident, speak to an attorney right away. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Lamkin, Van Eman, Trimble & Dougherty, LLC, can work with investigators to establish the cause of the accident and hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence.