Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) August 22, 2013 – The federal government is imposing shorter hours on long-haul truck drivers.
The new rules from the Department of Transportation (DOT) are intended to reduce truck accidents on the nation's highways. Truck drivers must now take a 30-minute break during their first eight hours behind the wheel. Truckers may only drive 70-hours per week rather than the previous maximum of 82, and those hours must be “restarted” with a 34-hour weekly break.
“Truck accidents cause a disproportionate number of highway fatalities,” said Paul Greenberg, a Chicago truck accident attorney. “Driver fatigue is a factor in many of those accidents.”
The new rules are a component of an Obama administration program to make highways safer. As part of the program, a new safety rating system has also been introduced, which shippers can examine before choosing a carrier.
The new hours of service rules were described by the government as common-sense, data-driven changes. But the trucking industry does not support the new rules and is suing to have them invalidated. The industry warns that the limits on hours will increase highway traffic and shipping costs. Trucking interests say the rules are not necessary, pointing to statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that show truck accident fatalities down nearly 30 percent, from 5,282 in 2000 to 4,000 in 2011.
The government says 4,000 crashes per year is still too high and claims the new rules will prevent about 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries per year and save 19 lives.
In a recent example, driver fatigue was shown to be a factor in the March 28 truck crash in which an Illinois State Police trooper was killed. The driver of the tractor-trailer that crashed into his police vehicle had been behind the wheel for 14 hours and fell asleep while driving. According to news reports, both the driver and his employer had been fined for violating rules requiring rest periods.
The government also claims the new rules will save money. According to a Department of Transportation analysis, collisions involving large trucks or buses were responsible for approximately $20 billion in insurance and medical costs, lost wages and productivity, and damage to infrastructure. The department also estimated that the new rules would create $470 million in benefits related to a reduction in driver mortality.
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