In June, this blog discussed newly-passed regulations from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) revising the hours-of-service (“HOS”) safety requirements for commercial truck drivers. HOS regulations limit the number of hours a truck driver is permitted to operate his or her vehicle during any given period of time. Since then, our Miami personal injury attorneys have been keeping an eye out for new developments related to this issue.
The new HOS requirements became effective on July 1, 2013, and are designed to reduce the number of accidents caused by driver fatigue and act as a cost-cutting measure due to fewer truck crashes and improved driver health. Some of the new regulations:
Cut the maximum number of hours a trucker can drive in a given week from 82 down to 70.
Drivers must take a break of at least 30 minutes for every eight hours driven.
Drivers that “max out” the permissible number of weekly hours must rest a minimum of two nights per week from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., as part of the”34-hour restart” program requiring truckers to have at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty to reset the clock on their work week.
In order to ensure compliance with the new regulations, the FMCSA instituted harsher penalties for violations of the rules. Trucking companies now face civil penalties of up to $11,000 and drivers $2,750 for “egregious” violations of the regulations. An egregious violation means driving more than 3 hours beyond the established time limits.
In January, U.S. Department of Transportation (“USDOT”) released the results of a study conducted by the Washington State University Sleep and Performance Research Center and Philadelphia-based Pulsar Informatics, Inc. to determine the impact of the new HOS regulations. According to the study, drivers who began their work cycle with one nighttime period of rest, as compared to the two nights in the updated 34-hour restart break experienced:
Exhibited more lapses of attention, especially at night;
Reported greater sleepiness, especially toward the end of their duty periods; and
Showed increased lane deviation in the morning, afternoon and at night.
One of the largest studies ever conducted with commercial motor vehicle drivers, the study followed 106 truckers for 1,260 days of data and almost 415,000 miles of driving. The study ultimately estimates that the 34-hour restart rule will prevent approximately 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries, and 19 accident deaths annually.
According to FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro, the study confirmed the science used to make the HOS regulations more effective at preventing crashes. Ferro commented, “For the small percentage of truckers that average up to 70 hours of work a week, two nights of rest is better for their safety and the safety of everyone on the road.”
Due to the immense weight and considerable size commercial trucks, proper operation of these vehicles is of particular importance. Negligence behind the wheel of such a vehicle can easily result in catastrophe and severe injuries or death.
The Miami car accident lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligence of truck drivers and trucking companies. If you or someone you know has been injured in automobile or vehicular accident, contact an attorney at Gerson & Schwarz, PA for a free consultation.