A lawsuit over tired truck driving may eliminate an embattled rule that concerns safety advocates about the risk of truck accidents, motor vehicle accidents and wrongful deaths on the nation’s roadways.
Since 2004, advocacy groups have been battling an hours-of-service rule passed by the Bush administration that increased the maximum number of consecutive hours a trucker could work from ten to eleven and decreased the rest and recovery time from fifty hours to thirty-four. Safety advocates claim that the changes are likely to lead to more motor vehicle accidents, serious personal injuries and wrongful deaths.
Twice, advocacy groups have successfully challenged the rule in court just to have the administration reissue the same rule. In 2004, the court vacated the hours-of-service rule on the grounds that the government did not adequately consider the effects of longer driving hours on individual truck driver welfare and public safety. In 2007, the court vacated the rule again because the agency did not allow public notice and comment on the new crash risk analysis used as justification to reissue the same rule.
Advocacy groups brought a third lawsuit in 2009 and will finally see an outcome. As part of a legal settlement, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have agreed to redraft the existing hours-of-service rule. In January, the agencies held several sessions around the country to gather public comment.
As they start work, safety advocates hope that the new rule will reflect the dangerous reality of tired truckers. The deaths and personal injuries caused by drivers falling asleep in the cab can be catastrophic for truck drivers and people on the road.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board points to driver fatigue as a likely factor in twenty to forty percent of truck crashes. Safety advocates, including members of Parents Against Tired Truckers and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, applaud the settlement as a step in the right direction towards safe roads.
There are typically over 1,000 Massachusetts truck accidents every year, nearly half of which involve out-of-state motor carriers. In 2006, 34 people were killed in Massachusetts trucking accidents.
For more information on the regulations, see the FMCSA website. The Truck Safety Coalition has a collection of stories and press releases on the hours-of-service rule and trucker fatigue.
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