The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently set to introduce new rules for how long truckers may drive in a given day and in a given week, in what it says is an effort to make the roads safer. The revision of the rules has met with stiff opposition from the trucking industry, which sued to stop implementation. The rules also displeased safety groups including Public Citizen, though for the opposite reason—the safety groups want stricter rules, while trucking groups largely believe the new rules are too strict and would prefer to keep the existing ones. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments on the rules on March 15.
The rules being argued over are the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s recently published new hours of regulation for truck drivers, which are reducing the maximum number of hours in a week a truck driver can work by 12. It also mandates a 30 minute rest period within every 8 hour work period. The FMSCA is aiming to reduce crashes after finding a large number of crashes were caused by driver fatigue.
“This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach in our agency’s history,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “We carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer.”
The American Trucking Association, however, believes that the changes are based on faulty assumptions and research and that the rules to be implemented are insufficient to reduce crashes.
However, a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that truck drivers reported more fatigue under the new rules, with 15% of drivers saying they fell asleep at the wheel. Even more disturbingly, 25% of drivers said they drive more than the new hours of regulation rules permitted, and a third admitted to falsifying their log books.
Furthermore, statistics from the FMCSA show that trucking accidents are actually still on the rise, even after the new rules were implemented, and despite claims from the American Trucking Association. In 2011, fatal truck accidents rose to 3,341, as compared to 3,271 in 2010 which also rose from 2009 numbers (2,983 fatal accidents). Overall, there were 7,000 more truck accidents in 2011 than 2010.
When investigating truck companies after an accident, it is not uncommon to find inconsistencies in logbooks as well as inconsistencies between logbooks and the GPS navigation systems in the trucks. By looking to these, attorneys and the FMCSA can tell more accurately whether trucking companies are staying truthful to the hours of regulation. However, with a financial incentive to drive longer hours and just falsify books, truck drivers and companies may just be doing that.
When an accident occurs involving a truck, it may not be as simple as just an accident happening. There may be much more underlying the reasons why, including hours of regulation violations. With the new rules set to be implemented, it will be important to make sure truck drivers and companies immediately adapt and abide by their rules. It is important to know what to look for in these cases as to hold the trucking companies to the rules, and hold them accountable for their violations of those rules when people get hurt.