State and federal regulations limit truck load size, speed, equipment, as well as driver schedules. Driver fatigue is a well-documented problem in the trucking industry where drivers have an incentive to speed and chase the clock. Truck drivers in Florida and nationwide will now have to comply with new provisions effective July 2013 that will restrict their “hours of service” or the number of hours they can be on the road.
The new federal provisions will help to ensure that drivers are well-rested and to prevent fatigue that can cause drowsiness and accidents. A driver who has not had proper sleep has slow reaction times and is more likely to cause an accident or lose control of a commercial truck. Our truck accident attorneys are dedicated to ensuring road safety and holding truck drivers and trucking companies accountable for negligence.
The very nature of the trucking industry means that truckers have an incentive to drive even when they are tired. Drivers are often paid by how much ground they can cover. Doing the math, a driver understands that the faster they drive and the more hours on the road, the more money they can pocket. These incentives mean that drivers are often prone to sleep deprivation. Habitual disruption of sleep can also cause chronic fatigue.
Drivers have a number of other reasons to work long hours or to extend driving sessions. They may be headed home to see loved ones, making up for lost time or trying to beat rush hour. In some cases, drivers will speed or work long hours to avoid bad weather. Unfortunately fatigue management is not often dealt with during training and drivers have minimal guidance from trucking companies.
Safety advocates nationwide know that reducing the number of hours a driver can be on the road will also reduce the number of accidents and injuries caused by driver fatigue. Studies show that reducing the number of hours drivers on the road, you can also reduce fatigue- related crashes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has developed a new set of regulations and standards to reduce the number of “hours of service” allowable by commercial truckers.
The new regulations will reduce the number of hours a driver can be on the road by 12 hours. This is a 15% reduction from the old provisions that allowed a maximum of 82 hours in one work week. Now drivers are limited to 70 per week. In addition to overall hour reductions, drivers will be required to take a 30 minute rest between 8 hour shifts.
Commercial truck driving is a significant responsibility. A negligent driver or trucking company can cause catastrophic accidents and injury. Because of the risks associated with driver fatigue, drivers should be alert and awake, and ready and capable to manage inclement weather, road construction and other obstructions or hazards on the road. The FMCSA may be the incentive the drivers need to stay awake and stay in line. Any driver who violates the laws will be liable for up to $2,750 and trucking companies can be liable for up to $11,000 per violation.