Federal Government Changes Rules Mandating Rest for Truckers, Despite Fatal Crash
Despite ongoing violations and evidence of a problem requiring increased regulation, the federal government has softened regulations relating to how much rest professional long-haul truckers must take between workweeks. Last year, the country was witness to a glaring example of the dangers of under-rested tractor-trailer drivers when a semi-truck driven by a sleep-deprived driver for Wal-Mart crashed into a limo bus occupied by actor and comedian Tracy Morgan, along with several of his associates. In recent weeks, the lawsuits against Wal-Mart and other responsible entities reached a settlement. However, Morgan continues to suffer effects of the traumatic brain injury he experienced in the crash. Additionally, the family of Jimmy McNair, who lost a father in the wreck, could never be fully compensated for his death.
In the accident causing Morgan’s injuries, the tractor-trailer was being driven by a Kevin Roper of Georgia on the New Jersey Turnpike. At approximately 1 a.m., Roper was allegedly going 65 mph in a 45 mph zone when he crashed into the rear of the limo bus carrying Morgan and his associates. Roper had reportedly been working for 13 hours and 32 minutes so far on the day of the crash. While the limits on a day’s work for a trucker is 14 hours, Roper was still 20 miles away from his final destination for the night at the time of the collision. Roper is currently free on $50,000 bail, with criminal charges for vehicular homicide and assault by an auto pending in New Jersey.
Mandatory Rest Period for Truckers Eliminated
The change in the law, quietly included in a Congressional appropriations bill, eliminates the regulation which required truck drivers to take a two-night weekend rest between work weeks. Work weeks for long-haul truck drivers are defined as being up to 70 hours long across up to six or seven days. A representative from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that a study of how the change in this regulation may affect professional truck drivers is ongoing.
Driver error is listed as the cause in over 80% of all tractor-trailer and other large truck crashes. While driver error includes such issues as distracted driving, alcohol use, and speeding, the number one reported cause of driver error is fatigue. Federal hours of service rules mandate that truck drivers may not work longer than 14 hours a day, with 11 of those spent behind the wheel, and that a driver must be off-duty for ten consecutive hours before starting a shift. The means of tracking such hours worked are largely through self-reporting on driver logs, which truck drivers are required to keep. However, drivers who fall behind on a delivery through forces outside of their control may be motivated to make up lost time, work longer hours, and complete logs inaccurately to keep government regulators satisfied.
Tractor-trailers and semi trucks have the capacity to do a great deal of damage. If you or a loved one has been injured by a negligently-driven semi or tractor-trailer, seek help from seasoned professionals in the area of truck accident law. Contact the Lexington Law Offices of Todd W. Burris for an evaluation of your potential truck accident personal injury lawsuit at 859-252-2222. Attorneys are available to assist with your claim throughout the Lexington, Kentucky area.