As an attorney handling trucking accident cases in Atlanta, Georgia, I frequently deal with issues of truck driver fatigue, and the controversy over the change in hours-of-service rules that wears out drivers while enabling shippers and trucking companies to squeeze more work hours out of them.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an appropriately named advocacy group, told the DC Circuit Court of Appeals last week that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration broke the law again when it reinstated an hours-of-service rule for truck drivers that is making highways more dangerous. The FMCSA claims that the rule, which allows driving 11 hours per day and working up to 84 hours per week, does not lead to dangerous fatigue.
According to a report by Commerce Clearing House (CCH), a reply brief filed last Thursday refutes FMCSA’s argument that the rule has improved highway safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reported that deaths in truck accidents increased in 2004 and 2005, while the percentage of fatal crashes that result from driver fatigue rose 20 percent during the same period. "Because 2004 was the first year in which the new, longer hours of driving and work were put into effect, the negative impact is obvious," the brief states. In addition, FMCSA has acknowledged in the past that the risk of a crash doubles from the 8th hour to the 9th hour of driving, and doubles again from the 10th to the 11th hour.
The hours-of-service rule has twice been thrown out by a court. FMCSA first promulgated the regulation in 2003, increasing the number of hours truckers can drive. The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit struck down the rule in 2004, but Congress reinstated it as part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004.
One may marvel at the stubborn resistance to common sense about fatigue hazards at the FMCSA. However, when I see how many former FMCSA officials retire to become shills for the trucking industry that they had been regulating, testifying in court and depositions that hardly anything a trucking company does is unsafe, it fits together.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia. 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 and bus accidents, including those resulting from driver fatigue. Click here for a free consultation with no obligation.