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New rules issued to reduce truck accidents caused by fatigue

Karns & Kerrison

Car accidents in Rhode Island can be very scary, especially if the collision involves a tractor-trailer. Every year, roughly 4,000 people die in truck accidents in the U.S., according to the Department of Transportation. While there are several causes for trucking accidents involving cars, the DOT reported that 13 percent of truck accidents are caused by fatigued drivers.

Truck accidents are very dangerous and often result in serious injuries and fatalities due to the size and weight of the tractor-trailers involved in the crash. To address the safety concerns and risks motorists face when driving on the road with large trucks, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued new rules for commercial truck drivers.

The FMCSA rules place restrictions for commercial truck drivers to reduce the risk of fatigued and drowsy driving. The new rules have three parts, which include specific rules for mandatory rest breaks and the amount of time truck drivers can work per week.

Specifically, truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute rest break after driving for eight hours. Drivers are also required to take a 34-hour rest period every week to help drivers rest and get enough sleep before starting another work week. The drivers are required to take at least two of these 34-hour off-duty, non-driving periods between 1 a.m. and 5 p.m. each week. Lastly, truck drivers can only drive commercial trucks a maximum of 70 hours per week.

The FMCSA issued these rules to keep truck drivers from becoming fatigued and drowsy behind the wheel. The FMCSA cited research on how dangerous fatigued truck drivers can be and that many truck drivers may suffer from chronic fatigue, which makes it dangerous for them to be operating such large and heavy commercial trucks. It is illegal for truck drivers and trucking companies to violate these new rules and those that do will face fines and other penalties from the FMCSA.

The FMCSA hopes that these new rules will help decrease the number of truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers but only time will tell if the new rules will have an impact on public safety.

Source: NPR, "New Rules Put Brakes On Truck Drivers' Schedules," June 30, 2013

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