Truck Driver Rest Rules Are Suspended, Increasing Safety Risk

U.S. Spending Bill Provisions Put Truck Drivers and Motorists at Risk

Last Saturday, the U.S. Senate passed the Omnibus spending bill to fund the government through September 2015. Although we are relieved that the government will continue functioning through next year, the bill comes at a high cost to motorists and truck drivers. The $1 trillion-dollar spending bill contains a provision that suspends federal hours-of-service laws for truck drivers.

Why the Hours-of-Service Rules Are Crucial

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (F.M.C.S.A.) had previously implemented important safety rules that limited the number of hours a commercial driver could drive and be on duty and the amount of time required for rest breaks. In addition, the F.M.C.S.A. regulations mandated that trucking companies maintain accurate, complete logs of the driving, shift and rest periods.

The F.M.C.S.A. passed the hours-of-service rules to keep exhausted truck drivers — like the man who crashed into actor Tracy Morgan after driving his WalMart tractor-trailer for over 24 hours straight — off the road. The rules address the problems that arise when a person too tired to drive operates a heavy tractor-trailer. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleepiness causes symptoms that make driving dangerous, such as:

  • Troubled concentration
  • Heavy eyelids and nodding head
  • Wandering thoughts
  • No memory of the last miles travelled
  • Missed exits and signs
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Tailgating, drifting between lanes and hitting rumble strips

These symptoms are dangerous for any driver, but when the driver is operating a tractor-trailer the risks to the driver and to motorists in the area increase substantially.

What Happens Now?

With passage of the Omnibus provisions, drivers will be permitted to drive up to 82 hours a week, more than twice the average American workweek, and 12 hours more than the current regulations permit. Many drivers will likely feel pressured to accept this hazardous working condition if their employers direct them to do so. The spending bill provisions make this irresponsible conduct totally lawful. Shame on the U.S. Congress for putting us drivers at a greater risk of getting hit by an 18 wheeler or large commercial truck.

As reported by The Hill,
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) President Larry Hanley referred to the
suspension of hours-of-service rules as, “an immoral effort to strip
users of our roads of their right to safe passage and a death sentence
for truck drivers, bus drivers and others.” He described the new
provisions as, “a very dangerous move by Congress that will result in
more deaths and gruesome injuries on our nation’s highways.”

You Have the Right to Be Protected from Tired 18-Wheeler Drivers

Berenson Law Firm regularly handles tractor-trailer accident claims
and we see the tragedy that can happen because a truck driver drives
while tired. We recently praised President Obama’s choice of Mark R.
Rosekind for Chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.)
in part because of his expertise in the effects of sleepiness on driver safety. We are furious that after taking one step forward toward safer
highways, we have now been forced to take two steps back.

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