Will changes to trucking industry regulation endanger NC drivers?

A regulation requiring trucker rest periods to include set amounts of overnight rest has been suspended; this could lead to more fatigued driving crashes.

As most people in Raleigh know, it's not uncommon for truck drivers to work long and irregular hours. This can lead to fatigue and a greater likelihood of accidents. Sadly, these accidents often have devastating consequences for other motorists, including serious injuries and even fatalities.

Given this substantial risk, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has enacted regulations that mandate rest periods for truckers and limit the total hours that truckers can work. Unfortunately, the recent suspension of one of these regulations may leave innocent drivers in greater danger of truck accidents.

Rest periods under study

Most of the FMCSA regulations on breaks and weekly work limits are still in place. However, according to the Marshfield News Herald, recent legislation has suspended one important requirement for the weekly "reset" periods that drivers are required to complete before beginning a new workweek.

Previously, truckers had to complete a 34-hour restart period that included two rest periods lasting from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Now, drivers only need to take 34 hours off from driving. The regulation is suspended until September 2015, pending an FMCSA-funded study into the effectiveness of requiring overnight rest periods during reset periods.

Proponents of the rule suspension believe it could reduce trucking accidents, since the overnight rests resulted in more truckers driving during the day, causing more congestion and a potentially greater risk of accidents. However, critics believe mandatory overnight rests play a critical role in limiting driving hours and reducing driver fatigue. If this is the case, the suspension of this requirement could lead to an increase in accidents involving fatigued truckers.

A significant accident risk factor

Fatigued driving plays a role in many North Carolina accidents. According to WSOC-TV, in Charlotte alone, drowsy drivers caused over 530 crashes during a three-year period. Statewide, drowsy driving caused a known 417 accidents in 2012, 392 crashes in 2013 and 334 accidents in 2014. The number of crashes that truly involved driver fatigue may be even greater, since fatigue can be difficult to identify or establish after an accident.

Fatigued driving accidents can be especially severe when the drowsy drivers are operating large commercial vehicles. WSOC-TV relates the story of one fatal Hendersonville accident that occurred when a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. The truck driver plowed into a passenger vehicle, which was stopped in traffic due to a crash on the road ahead. Tragically, none of the vehicle's five occupants survived.

Statistics show that many people in North Carolina may fall victim to large truck accidents this year. Data from the state Department of Transportation indicates that there were more than 9,000 reported accidents involving single unit or heavy trucks in 2012 alone. Sadly, lives were lost in more than 130 of these truck accidents. Unfortunately, the suspension of the overnight rest rule may lead to an increase in similar accidents.

Recourse for negligent accidents

Anyone who has been harmed or lost a loved one in an accident that a truck driver caused should think about meeting with an attorney. An attorney may be able to provide advice on the available legal remedies or guidance during the claim process.

Keywords: trucking, accident, injury