According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 3,000 people die in large truck crashes and more than 95,000 are injured each year, and driver fatigue is a leading factor. To combat this problem, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued new rules to stop fatigued driving by making changes to the “hours of service” rules for truck drivers. The rule was complicated, but it basically boiled down to two updated requirements. One is that drivers take a 30-minute rest break within the first 8 hours of their shift so they can stay alert on the road. The other rule updated the use of the 34-hour rest period, known as the “restart”, which required that drivers have the opportunity to take a longer rest period and catch up on sleep before working another week.
But in 2014, under pressure from trucking companies, the U.S. Congress suspended part of this rule, thus eliminating the requirement that drivers have two rest periods during a driving week, meaning drivers are on the road longer between rest periods. And even with the loosening of rest regulations, the trucking industry has been battling to get the break regulations repealed, with trucking executives claiming that drivers need maximum flexibility in their work and should not be told when to take breaks. However, these breaks are critical for road safety. Government data shows that truckload carriers have a relatively high incidence of fatigue-related crashes because of their irregular and unpredictable operating schedules.
Fred McLuckie, director of federal legislation for the Teamsters union and an advocate for truck drivers, says fatigue has long been underreported at accident scenes and has become more of a pressing issue in recent years. “Fatigue is even more of a concern now than it has been, and drivers need to get proper rest to do the job that they do,” says McLuckie. “Congestion on the highways is greater than ever, there are more vehicles on the road than ever before, and drivers have to be more attentive than ever.”
One of the most well known recent truck driver fatigue accidents was one that seriously injured famed comedian and actor, Tracy Morgan, and which killed and injured others in his vehicle. The National Transportation Safety Board reported that this deadly 2014 crash on a busy highway was caused in no small part to driver fatigue. In fact, the Wal-Mart truck driver who plowed into Morgan’s vehicle hadn’t slept in 28 hours, driven over 800 miles overnight from Georgia to a Wal-Mart distribution center in Delaware to pick up a load before starting the trip without stopping for sleep.
“If it weren’t for the fact that an entertainer, Tracy Morgan, was the victim of a crash, this would have gone unnoticed, but it happens day in and day out,” says Henry Jasny, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
If you or a loved one were injured in a truck accident, contact an experienced Colorado truck accident lawyer, who can evaluate your case and help you understand your rights.