New “Hours of Service” rules for truckers will go into effect next month, reducing the amount of time a truck driver can spend on the road without sleep, and increasing the amount of rest time required before returning to the highways.
On October 1, 2005, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Hours of Service rules will require truck drivers to rest for at least 10 hours between shifts, and provides a 34-hour rest period for cumulative fatigue recovery between workweeks.
These new rules are in addition to the regulations introduced in 2003, which prohibit commercial truck drivers from driving for more than 11 hours straight, working more than 14 hours in a single shift, and driving more than 60 hours in a week.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established by the U.S. Department of Transportation to reduce crashes, injuries, accidents and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.
“We have a very aggressive goal at the Department of Transportation to reduce fatalities on our nation’s highways, so safety is the top issue in our rule-making process,” said Annette Sandberg, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
According to Jeffrey D. Slakter, a lawyer specializing in truck crashes, “each year, over 5,000 people die as a result of a collision with a large truck, and an estimated 130,000 victims sustain injuries”.
Mr. Slakter also points out that a loaded commercial truck weighs more than 25 times the amount of a passenger car, which can be a difference of more than 75,000 lbs. “The sheer size and weight of an eighteen-wheeler means the result almost always produces serious injuries or fatalities,” he says.
The FMCSA has utilized a number of studies and crash statistics from across the United States to come up with what they hope is a fair balance between the safety of everyone on our highways and the sustainability of the trucking industry. Nevertheless, there will continue to be major accidents involving commercial trucks. With the trucking industry working to maintain profit margins by allowing drivers to work longer hours, and the FMCSA issuing regulations that reduce the amount of hours a trucker can drive, the resulting accident and fatality statistics will be highly debated next year. In the meantime, trucking accident attorneys like Mr. Slakter will continue to protect the rights of the individuals who make up those statistics.
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