Tractor trailers are substantially heavier than smaller vehicles and have many more blind spots. Coupled with long work hours, and trucks can become extremely dangerous on the roadways. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year. Driver fatigue is a leading factor in those crashes.
To help prevent truck accidents caused by driver fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) changed the rules in 2011 to limit truck drivers’ legal “hours of service” per day. The FMCSA updated the requirements as follows:
- Drivers must take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their shift.
- Drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving must use a “restart period” for 34 consecutive hours once every seven days. The restart period must include at least two periods of rest between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. to give drivers the opportunity for a substantial rest before working another long week.
The new requirements took full effect in 2013 and reduced truck drivers’ average maximum work week from 82 hours to 70 hours. The FMCSA made these changes in response to truck inspections as well as new research demonstrating that chronic fatigue can result from long work hours without sufficient recovery time. The research found that fatigue leads to slower reaction times and a diminished ability to quickly assess situations. Further, people are often unable to assess their own fatigue levels and are unaware when their performance has degraded. For tractor trailer drivers moving at highway speeds, the result could be deadly.
Any careless driving on the road puts a motorist and everyone nearby in danger. Contact our firm for assistance if you or a loved one was hurt in an auto accident involving a tractor trailer. Our team has decades of experience investigating complex truck accident cases, and we can answer your legal questions.