Revised Hours of Service Regulations for Truck Drivers to Prevent Crashes Resulting From Driver Fatigue - Guest Blog from Nelson Tyrone

I have been talking to some of the finest trial lawyers across the United States with about how they handle trucking cases and issues in the trucking industry. I have asked a number of them provide blog posts and will add guest blogs from them as I receive them.  

Nelson Tyrone is a tractor trailer accident lawyer in Atlanta that I have worked with on a number of cases. A fellow graduate of the Spence Trial Lawyers College, Nelson has had incredible success in the courtroom, is a trial lawyer's trial lawyer, and is a flat out nice person to boot. Recently we were talking about fatigue in trucking cases and I asked him to put his thoughts down for the blog. Nelson's reply is as follows: 

Fatigue is a major issue for over the road (OTR) truck drivers and therefore, a concern for all of us who share the roadways. Due to the very nature of the occupation, many truck drivers suffer from sleep deprivation and the disruption of normal sleep cycles. Not as much attention is given to the topic of fatigue in initial truck driver training, where the focus is more on safe operation of the commercial vehicle. Fatigue management is something trucking companies are supposed to train their drivers on as it is so critical to safety, and such a recognized problem in the trucking industry (see my  prior posts on fatigue and sleep apnea).

Most truck drivers are paid by how much ground they cover in a certain amount of time. The faster they cover ground, and the longer they work, the more they get paid. Other common scenarios that could possibly contribute to truck driver fatigue may be a driver who is anxious to get home to his family after being on the road all week, a driver who is worried about beating rush-hour traffic in a certain locale, or a truck driver attempting to make up for lost time due to unanticipated traffic or inclimate weather.

In an effort to reduce fatigue-related crashes involving truck drivers, the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Service Administration) has worked together to reduce the number of “hours of service” worked by commercial truck drivers.  These hours of service were extended a few years ago, and the new regulations return the regulations to the earlier limits (see HERE). The studies show that by reducing the hours, it will reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes, as well as reduce the number of long-term health problems for many drivers that can result from long term sleep deprivation. Of course no ruling can ensure that the drivers will actually rest, however, it can ensure that they have adequate time off the schedule to recuperate before their next work assignment.

The FMCSA’s new hours of service reduces the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work in a week by 12 hours. While the old rules permitted drivers to work a maximum of 82 hours within a seven-day period, under the new regulations 70 hours per week is the maximum allowed. This is a 15% reduction in the number of allowable hours to be worked. The new regulations also require a 30 minute rest period between every 8 hour period of driving.

A large truck on the road can be a deadly instrument when the driver is overtired. “Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” said transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives. Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”

Companies or drivers who commit egregious hours of service violations could face the maximum fine for each offense. Companies can be fined up to $11,000 per violation, and the individual drivers may be fined up to $2,750 per incident. Truckers are required to use a logbook to record their drive time and break times, therefore ensuring compliance with the regulations. FMCSA initially announced these changes in December of 2011 as a method to help prevent fatigue - related crashes. Commercial truck drivers and trucking companies must comply with the Hours of Service Final Rule by July 1, 2013.

The new regulation on hours of service is available for downloading free HERE.  

Nelson Tyrone  handles Trucking Injury, Brain Injury, Spine Injury, RSD/CRPS and wrongful death cases in Georgia. You can reach Nelson at 404-377-0017 or via email at admin@tyronelaw.com. 

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