How Long Should Truckers Work Before Taking a Mandated Break?
Anyone who decides to operate a motor vehicle is expected to take necessary precautions against the risk of drowsy and distracted driving. Commercial truck drivers — who often spend long hours operating vehicles that are dozens of feet long and weigh tens of thousands of pounds — are at particular risk of driving without adequate rest, and the possible consequences of a truck driver falling asleep behind the wheel can be catastrophic. A report from the Truck Safety Coalition found that in a typical year there are 4,000 deaths and nearly 100,000 injuries caused by collisions involving large commercial vehicles. Around 96% of these deaths resulting from semi-truck accidents involve someone in a passenger vehicle. Over the past four years, the rate of fatalities and injuries resulting from large truck crashes has risen considerably. Despite this reality, the Department of Transportation reports that the minimum insurance requirements of large commercial trucks have not been increased in 30 years, even considering inflation, rising medical costs, and an increase in disability claims resulting from 18-wheeler accidents.
Fatigued Truck Drivers Are a Threat to Road Safety
It should be more than apparent to most drivers that large, heavy trucks operated by tired, sleep-deprived truckers are a threat to everyone on the road. Despite these risks, Congress has considered bills that would weaken the current regulations that limit the size and weight of large commercial trucks and require that drivers get 34 hours of rest time for every 70 hours on the job — just over eight hours of off-time every 24-hour period per average. The bulk of the argument in favor of loosening these regulations stem from some of the country’s largest trucking business, like UPS, FedEx, and Conway Freight. These companies argue that letting their truckers operate 120-foot-long vehicles would ultimately make drivers safer by reducing the number of trucks on the road and that allowing these companies to push their truckers to work longer hours would reduce highway congestion during peak traffic times.
The larger and heavier a truck is, the greater momentum it has. This means that these vehicles are harder to stop, need more time to slow down, and difficult to operate. If an unexpected hazard appears in the path of the truck, the operator needs more time to apply the brakes and safely navigate the hazard in order to avoid a crash. Drivers who are fatigued have decreased response times and are less equipped to react to unexpected changes on the road compared to well-rested drivers. The combination of an increase in the maximum length and weight of commercial vehicles and a reduction in the mandated rest periods of their operators is certain to lead to disaster, and the occupants of passenger vehicles are at risk of suffering the majority of the effects of that disaster by a significant margin.
New Bills Could Loosen Trucking Regulations
The US Department of Transportation recently conducted a study that examined the safety issues associated with the proposed regulatory changes that have been considered by Congress. The results, which have been made available to the public, show that there is not enough data currently available to predict the possible aftermath of major regulatory changes with true accuracy. Because of this, the Department of Transportation argues that no significant changes in the current regulations should be made until the limitations of the current data are overcome.
Many organizations, from public health and safety groups to law enforcement and state transportation officials, oppose the proposed loosening of regulations in the trucking industry. Even the trucking businesses that use trailers of the standard size are not in favor of these proposed changes, as they likely realize that market pressure would force them to put others at risk while opening themselves up to the greater risk of injury lawsuits. These companies could also lose ground to their competitors who are more willing to risk public safety by allowing their truckers to operate for longer hours behind the wheels of these large vehicles.
Commercial tractor-trailers are ever-present on highways across the United States, and crashes involving these trucks are much more likely to be deadly for the occupants of passenger vehicles who are unfortunate enough to be near them when something goes wrong. With deadly, debilitating, and injury-causing collisions already increasing, the government and trucking organizations should be collaborating to ensure that the roads are safer — not to further loosen existing regulations. When traveling on the road, you can never know how long the drive of a nearby 18-wheeler has been on the road without a break, so it helps to stay alert and give large vehicles plenty of space on the road. Become familiar with what is covered under your car insurance policy and how New Jersey no-fault insurance laws function. If you have any questions about current tucking legislation that is going through Congress, let your representatives know.
New Jersey Trucking Accidents
There are more than 500,000 crashes involving semi-trucks reported annually. These crashes result in more than 5,000 deaths each year. Over 96% of those killed are outside the rig.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an accident involving a semi-truck, you may be able to pursue compensation for your damages. Winning a legal claim against a trucking company is far from easy, considering that you will be going up against their army of lawyers. To secure the settlement you deserve, you will need your own experienced New Jersey 18-wheeler crash attorney to fight on your behalf.
At Brady, Brady, & Reilly, LLC, we are known for our tenacity in the courtroom and the ability to recover rightful compensation for our clients. We have proudly helped the people of New Jersey fight for the justice they deserve after an accident. If you’ve been unfairly injured in a crash involving a tractor-trailer, call us today at (201) 997- 0030.