The FMCSA has strengthened its Hours of Service regulations to try and limit the number of drowsy truckers on the road.
Commercial truck drivers in America are pressured to drive longer hours in order to make more money, meet tight deadlines and deliver more freight. Since truck drivers are paid per mile, it’s no surprise why they may be encouraged to burn the midnight oil. When truckers spend too much time behind the wheel, however, they become drowsy and may end up severely injuring or killing innocent people as a result. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,802 Americans were killed in large truck accidents in 2012. The number of large truck accident fatalities that occurred in Pennsylvania increased substantially, from 131 deaths in 2009 to 175 deaths in 2012.
Just recently, a commercial truck driver dozed off while behind the wheel and caused a catastrophic multi-car pileup, which took the lives of two people and injured nine others. NBC Philadelphia News reported that after the truck driver fell asleep, he shifted into oncoming traffic and plowed into nine vehicles, piling them up on top of one another against a store sign. The large truck operator has been charged with nine counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, two counts of homicide by vehicle, two counts of involuntary manslaughter, speeding and several other driving violations.
Hours of Service regulations
In an attempt to decrease the number of fatigued commercial truck operators on American roadways, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration revised the Hours of Service regulations, which set the guidelines on how long a trucker can stay behind the wheel at any given time. The new regulations state:
- Truck operators are restricted to a 70-hour work week.
- Truck operators cannot spend more than 11 hours driving each day.
- Truck operators must take at least a half hour break within the first eight hours of each shift.
- Truck operators who work a full week must rest for at least 34 consecutive hours, including at least two periods from 1 to 5 a.m.
Not only do these regulations affect large commercial truck drivers, but operators of all trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds, trucks transporting 16 or more people without compensation, trucks transporting 9 or more people with compensation or trucks transporting hazardous materials must also follow the regulations.
How trucking companies are involved
Truckers may not be the only ones charged with a crime for drowsy or distracted driving. Trucking companies who schedule their drivers in violation of federal regulations may also be to blame for any injuries, deaths or damage that occurs. Cornell University describes the term respondeat superior as when an employer can be held legally liable for the wrongful actions that an employee carries out while they are working.
Partner with an attorney
Commercial trucks can cause life-changing injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, paralysis and loss of limbs. If your life has been changed due to the negligent behavior of a trucker or trucking company, it is vital to contact an attorney who can help you get the compensation you need and deserve.