Truck driver fatigue, and how the new rules do and don’t help
Each year truck crashes kill over 5,000 people and injure almost 150,000 more on our nation’s roads and highways. Nearly one in four passenger vehicle deaths in multiple-vehicle collisions involve a large truck. In 1998, 98% of the fatalities in two-vehicle crashes involving passenger vehicles and large trucks were occupants of the passenger vehicles. When commercial drivers become fatigued from excessive daily and weekly work hours, they substantially increase the risk of crashes that result in death or serious injuries. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 750 people die and 20,000 more are injured each year due directly to fatigued commercial vehicle drivers.
The new hours adopted in 2004 (and now invalidated by a court order which is stayed pending further action) are supposed to address that problem by adopting a 24-hour sleep-rest cycle. The old rule required that commercial drivers operate a truck or bus no more than 10 consecutive hours before resting for minimum of 8 hours. This permitted fatigued drivers to spend 16 hours driving in any 24 hours period. The rationale for the new rule is to set a rotating schedule of work/rest based on a 24 hour period instead of an 18 hour period which requires longer rest periods for the drivers. Whether it is adequate to address the problem of driver fatigue is another question. See article.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).