Changes in Trucking Safety Rules May Lead to More Crashes

While many complain about government regulations, changes in the amount of hours during which a truck driver can operate their truck may lead to more crashes caused by fatigued drivers

Regulations exist for a reason. That reason, ultimately, can be very personal. Trucking safety agencies, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the FMCSA, and the regulations they issue exist to promote safety and they often were promulgated after a crash or trend that caused crashes. To put it bluntly, many of these regulations exist because someone died.

Unfortunately, for most other drivers, the trucking industry and its lobbyists have been successful in having Congress suspend recent safety regulations involving the hours of service truck drivers may operate a vehicle. The rule created a 14-hour limit for drivers and that requires that they have two full nights of sleep before restarting their workweek of 80 hours.

Deadly fatigue

While drunk driving is often pointed to as very dangerous behavior and subject to criminal penalties, many people fail to even recognize that drowsy driving is a real safety matter. Most drivers, when fatigued often believe they can force themselves to stay awake behind the wheel by turning the volume of the radio up or opening the window.

While it may appear to work for a short time, if you are truly fatigued, it will only work until it does not, at which point, you may have run off the road, into a tree or utility pole or crossed into the other lane and crashed head-on into oncoming traffic. Studies have found that a fatigued driver behaves in much the same way as an intoxicated driver. For a truck driver with an 80,000 truck, the consequence of those actions may be deadly to them and any innocent motorists who have the misfortune to be in their vicinity when they dozed off.

Shippers at fault?

Truck drivers often complain that the 14-hour rule is unsafe because it mandates when drivers can sleep. Their real complaint seems to be that shippers demand unrealistic delivery time schedules, and after making them wait for hours at a dock to load or unload, they then have to break the HOS limits to keep on schedule.

The FMCSA has been looking into this issue but is unlikely to propose any regulations under the current administration, which is more likely to either remove existing regulations or, reduce or eliminate enforcement of many regulations.

Whatever the reason, any truck driver who continues driving when they are fatigued is acting irresponsibility and negligently, as is any trucking company that demands such behavior.

Fatalities on the rise

The bad news is, after more than a decade of decline, traffic fatalities have begun climbing, with sharp increases in 2015 and an increase of 8 percent in the first nine months of 2016. Nevada's total only increased by one, from 326 to 327, which may seem minor, unless you were that one.

Because many gains in traffic safety have been structural and obtained through the regulatory process, the increase in deaths may continue for years. Reduced regulatory enforcement can send a message to companies that they can get away with skirting the rules and outright cheating. In the absence effective regulation, personal injury lawsuits take on a regulatory aspect.

While aggressive litigation by those injured in these negligent crashes may eventually correct some behavior, it still means some innocent motorist had to suffer the injuries in the first place. If you have been injured, your only option may be to bring a lawsuit for compensation and to hold them accountable.