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Large Commercial Trucks May Be Subject To New Federal Rules

The FMCSA has proposed new rules regarding hours of service for over the road truck drivers. The proposed changes were published on December 29, 2010, and this publication starts the formal 60-day comment period ending on February 28, 2011. In short, the proposed changes include:

Presently, big-rig truckers are subject to a maximum of 14 hours consecutive on-duty time, with a 16 hour once per week exception for regional drivers, and 16 hours twice per week for non-CDL within 150 miles. The proposed change will set the maximum on-duty hours in any 24 hour period at a flat 13.

The current rule allows 11 hours of driving time within the 14 (or proposed 13) hours of on-duty time. The proposed change is considering lowering the driving time to 10 hours within the 14 (or proposed 13) hours of on-duty time. The off-duty period is presently set at ten consecutive hours, and there is no proposed change for this rule.

Although the proposed changes by the FMCSA don’t seem all that dramatic, even knocking off one hour of consecutive driving time in a given 24-hour period could result in fewer truck-related accidents. Semi-trucks are the largest vehicles on the road and fatigued drivers of these 80,000 pound monsters seem to be disproportionately involved in fatal crashes as well as those involving serious injuries. Because big rigs are much longer and heavier, they can also be much harder to steer or bring to a complete stop. While a car driving 65 mph can stop in about 160 feet, a tractor-trailer going the same speed requires 420 feet to come to a complete stop. The National Transportation Safety Board believes truck driver fatigue could be a contributing factor in as many as 40% of all big truck accidents. Although big commercial trucks account for only four percent of the vehicles on our roadways, they are involved in 11 percent of crash fatalities.

Driver fatigue can result from too many hours of consecutive driving, too many driving hours with less than adequate off-duty time, and pressure to deliver loads. This type of fatigue brings on decreased alertness as well as impaired ability to think clearly and process information efficiently. The proposed decrease in consecutive driving hours is meant to combat the pressures placed on truck drivers by employers trying to increase revenues. Both drivers and their employers who violate the regulations as set out by the FMCSA risk causing injuries and fatalities in what should be preventable collisions, and also risk fines and civil penalties.

If you or a family member has suffered injury as a result from a crash with a large truck, contacting a Missouri commercial truck accident attorneycan help you determine who is responsible for your specific accident. Missouri truck accidents may require your personal injury attorney to help you find and receive evidence which must be collected following such an accident, including the driver’s log book, which can tell you if he was driving while fatigued.