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New hours of service regulations aim to reduce truck driver fatigue

Unless you work in the trucking industry, you are probably not aware that new hours of service regulations recently went into effect. Although such regulations do not concern you directly, they affect safety on roadways across the nation. They do this by limiting the number of hours that an interstate truck driver can drive at one time, thus addressing the problem of driver fatigue and its role in truck accidents.

The new rules

As of 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCA) rules that set the maximum number of hours that truck drivers are allowed to drive before resting state that interstate tractor-trailer truck drivers must limit their driving time to 70 hours per 8 consecutive days on duty, if their company operates vehicles 7 days a week. For companies that do not operate vehicles every day of the week, drivers are limited to driving 60 hours a week. Also, all truck drivers must not drive more than eight straight hours before taking a half-hour rest break. And drivers who have reached their weekly driving limit must rest for 34 consecutive hours, including two nights between 1-5 a.m.

Although safety advocates are in favor of the new rules, they are not without their critics. Trucking associations have opposed the changes since they were proposed two years ago. In the spring of 2013, the American Trucking Associations sued to block enforcement of the rules in federal court, arguing that the rules were not based on sound research and were arbitrary.

The FMCSA countered that the rules would reduce the number of truck accidents and save lives. It maintained that the new rules were based on years of research of driver fatigue and sleep patterns and were thus not arbitrary.

Even though the new rules have already gone into effect, the challenge is still pending in court. Depending on the outcome of the lawsuit, the rules may or may not be permanently implemented.

Consult an attorney

Trucking companies are for-profit enterprises that are concerned with maximizing revenue. Although few would begrudge this, the pursuit of profit sometimes comes at the expense of safety. Companies and drivers who violate the new rules can face fines of up to $11,000 per offense. In egregious cases, the drivers themselves can also be fined up to $2,750 for each offense.

Although these fines are well meaning, unfortunately, they may not be enough to deter trucking companies, many of which annually have millions or billions in revenue, from disregarding the regulations in the name of profit and putting countless drivers on the road at a risk of serious injury or death.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a truck, driver fatigue or other negligent activities may be to blame. An experienced personal injury attorney can help investigate the cause of the accident and advise you of your right to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other expenses under Virginia law.