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Changes in hours of service aim to reduce trucker fatigue

The people who drive trucks for a living work long hours and fight fatigue every day. The goal of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to improve highway safety, and as part of that effort, the department has issued regulations regarding the number of hours truck drivers may operate.

What truckers are up against

In addition to working long hours, truckers must deal with an environment made up of close quarters and constant vehicle vibration. They often operate on insufficient sleep and live on a diet that is irregular at best. In their line of work, they deal with daily traffic frustrations as well as stretches of bad weather and dangerous road conditions. Fatigue is ever present, and so is the possibility of a highway accident.

Long hours and insufficient recovery time

Research shows that the long work hours put in by truckers without enough recovery time lead to chronic fatigue and reduced sleep. As a result, drivers are prone to slower reaction times, and their judgment may be impaired; they cannot make decisions as quickly as they should. One of the problems with fatigue is that it can sneak up on you and take over without your realizing what is happening. When a driver who operates a big rig becomes overly tired, driving becomes dangerous and the truck can become a weapon on the road.

FMSCA rule changes

According to the FMSCA, 4,000 people die in large truck accidents annually. Fatigue is the leading contributor to these crashes. In 2011, the FMSCA issued new hours of service rules with two main requirements. The first ruled that drivers must take a rest break of 30 minutes within the first eight hours of work. The second represented an update to what is called the "restart." This is a 34-hour rest period which, according to the new ruling, can only be used once every seven days. During that time, two periods of rest between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. must be included. The idea here is for truckers to be able to rest well and catch up on the sleep they may miss.

DOT reinforcements

The Department of Transportation rules reinforce the efforts to cut down on trucker fatigue. For example, a trucker may drive a maximum of 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off duty, or a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. The rules are precise and meant to be fair to both trucking companies and their employees.

Seeking help

The studies made about trucker fatigue indicate that older drivers are those most affected as well as those who have endured long shifts. Accidents happen despite the rules set to help reduce fatigue. Any driver who has suffered injuries from a truck or car-truck accident can turn for help to an experienced personal injury attorney.

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