By: William “Bill” Hurst, Truck Accident Attorney
Have you or a loved one ever been involved in a car accident involving a tractor trailer or semi-truck? Stricter trucking laws may have prevented this.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported in 2012 an estimated 333,000 large trucks were involved in traffic accidents leaving 104,000 people injured and another 3,921 people dead.1 Many people have been affected by accidents with these“big-rigs” and these accidents tend to be rather devastating, leading to serious injury and even death.
Recently in the news you may have heard about the accident in which a semi collided with Tracy Morgan’s limousine, injuring four people and killing one. According to the criminal complaint against the driver of the semi he had not slept for over twenty-four (24) hours prior to the accident.2 At this point you may be wondering what laws are in place to prevent accidents due to fatigue and what improvements are being made?
Current Trucking Laws
Trucking laws are controlled by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The current laws followed by truckers and trucking companies are called the “Hours of Service” rules (HOS). These rules contain the following restrictions3:
1) 11-Hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day limit.
2) The maximum work week for truckers is 70 hours
3) Drivers who meet the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week may resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours including two periods between 1-5 AM.
4) Drivers must take a 30 minute break after their first eight hours of a shift.
5) Drivers must keep a log of their driving activities.
6) Companies and drivers who violate these rules are subject to civil penalties.
These laws may seem reasonable to the average person, and if followed correctly would prevent most accidents caused by driver fatigue. The problem is that many companies are supposedly encouraging drivers into falsifying log books in order to keep their jobs. With companies threatening these drivers livelihood, it seems logical that the drivers may disobey these rules. This is the motivation between the newly proposed legislation prohibiting companies from pressuring drivers to disobey the current laws.
This newly proposed legislation would prohibitt any companies, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries from coercing drivers to operate their vehicle in violation of certain FMCSR regulations including the “Hours of Service” laws.4 The legislation would include procedures for drivers to report incidents of coercion to FMCSA and impose civil penalties similar to those contained in the original HOS laws. Most importantly, for-hire carriers could lose their operating authority for a certain period of time.5
Why These New Laws are Needed
It is believed that one of the main causes for these accidents is driver fatigue and studies done in the last ten (10) years support this position. According to a study done by the FMCSA in 1998 nearly 750 of the 5,000 deaths caused by trucking accidents were due directly to driver fatigue.6 This study also estimated that fatigue was a factor in these crashes 30-40% of the time. Another study done by the FMCSA in 2000 revealed that the risk of a crash effectively doubles from the eighth to the tenth hour of driving, and doubles again from the tenth to the eleventh hour of driving alone.7
This proposed legislation could help make our roadways safer from these types of accidents, but inevitably these devastating crashes with still occur. If you or a loved is injured in a trucking accident contact an experience attorney immediately.
Seek Help From An Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident contact an experienced attorney immediately. Car accidents require quick and experienced legal and investigative response to preserve any evidence and help present your case in the best light possible. Our attorneys are experienced at helping injured people receive the financial compensation they need after their injuries. Contact the Car Accident Attorneys at the Indianapolis Law Office of William “Bill” Hurst or call us toll free at (800) 636-0808 for a free consultation. ¡Hablamos Español!