US DOT ‘Hours of Service’ Rule Prevents Truck Accidents

Virtually every product manufactured in the United States is transported by a truck at some stage. Trucks are an important cog in the country’s economic wheel. Portland truck accident lawyers know that trucks are also, simply because of their sheer size and weight, very dangerous objects and especially when the driver is tired. A 2006 federal study found that the number one cause of accidents involving trucks is driver fatigue.

In December, 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new law dealing with the safety issues surrounding driver fatigue.  The new rules will incorporate the very latest technology to ensure truck drivers can get the rest they need to operate safely. The regulation replaces existing hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for commercial truck drivers. Our Portland truck accident lawyers support these new rules and hope they will help prevent serious injuries in truck accidents. Before the new regulations were introduced, the FMCSA held six “listening” sessions right across the country. Truck drivers and trucking company owners were invited to have their say on HOS requirements, as were safety advocates, law enforcement agencies and the general public. These sessions were streamed live via webcast to allow as many people as possible to participate in the development of the new rules.

New Rules Should Help Drivers Stay Rested

Under previous legislation, commercial truck drivers could work an average of up to 82 hours in a 7-day period. The new HOS rule has cut this figure back to a total weekly limit of 70 hours. “This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency’s history,” according to FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro, who stated the obvious when she said that rested and alert truckers make for safer roadways.

The new rules don’t just limit total hours, however. They also include mandatory break times of a minimum of half an hour after a driver has worked eight consecutive hours. The break can be taken at any time drivers feel they need rest during this eight-hour window. In addition, drivers who have used the maximum 70 hours of work in a week are required to take two consecutive nights off and not driver between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.; the hours that research shows are when the “body clock” demands the most sleep.

The body clock rule is part of the 34-hour restart provision, which allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week if they have taken a rest break of 34 consecutive hours. That restart provision can only be used once in every seven-day period however.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This … rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives,” LaHood said, then added, “Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”

Other road users deserve safe conditions, too. Portland truck accident lawyers point out that every year in the U.S., 5,000 people are killed and over 100,000 are injured in truck-related accidents. The new rules are good news for highway users, though the 11-hour daily driving limit remains unchanged, at least for now. FMCSA plans to continue analyzing data and carrying out further research relative to the risks of the 11-hour limit.

Now There are Penalties for Non-compliance

Trucking companies that continue to flout the new legislation will face stiffer than ever penalties, and the drivers themselves are not exempt. If a driver exceeds the 11-hour limit by three or more hours, the company can be fined $11,000 for every offense, and the driver could be hit with a $2,750 fine. To give companies time to implement the necessary changes, the new rules must be complied with by July 1, 2013.

Truck drivers occasionally feel hard done by and certainly many believe they are “over-regulated.” They also face nearly impossible deadlines and productivity requirements from companies eager to maximize profits. The problem is, trucks are huge, and when they collide with a car, pickup or SUV, the potential for serious injury or death is multiplied many times over.

Statistics have shown that commercial truck drivers who are behind the wheel for too many hours and are fatigued; they lose concentration and are the main reason for truck-related crashes. If this has happened to you or someone in your family, it’s important to understand that trucking firms and their insurance companies will be eager to pay out as little as possible.

In Oregon, the best thing to do in the event of a truck-related injury is to contact a team of dedicated and experienced Portland truck accident lawyers. They know how to deal with trucking companies, and perhaps most importantly, they have vast experience in dealing with insurance companies. If you want to ensure you receive a prompt and fair settlement of your claim, you should have a Portland personal injury lawyer on your side.