Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fatigue Makes Killers of Truck Drivers - The Debate on HOS

There can be no dispute that fatigued and sleep deprived  truck drivers cause tractor trailer accidents that cause great devastation, injury and death. The Federal government has promulgated new rules on the hours that a truck driver can work to add an additional layer of safety on trucking operations by decreasing the hours of service in a week that a truck driver can drive.

Needless to say the trucking interests are fighting this rule and finding support primarily among their own stakeholders. However even some tort lawyers that are free market advocates find the additional layer of regulations burdensome. My good friend and colleague Michael Ehline has written a well thought out article on the hours of service for truckers being an uneccessary burden on the trucking industry.

Michael reasons that, " common sense, freedom and less regulations will lead to more innovation and safety.  After all, tort lawyers can sue an unreasonable trucker based upon ordinary negligence already. A reasonable trucking company who wants to avoid lawsuits will behave reasonably. "
However to me this misses the point of safety regulations. Yes truck accident lawyers can sue when a tractor trailer operator is negligent ( fails to act reasonably ) but that is after the fact. The idea here is safety prevention. Truckers push themselves beyond their safe capacity to drive. Often tacitly encouraged by their own company.
My dear friend Jonathan Rosenfeld and member of the circle of legal trust of which Michael Ehline is the founder wrote an article that seems to tacitly agree with Michael but also takes a wait and see position.

The New Rules Are Not a Drastic Change 

Here is a chart of the new hours of service rules.

11-Hour Driving Limit
May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
10-Hour Driving Limit
May drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
14-Hour Limit
May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
15-Hour Limit
May not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.
Rest Breaks
May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes. [49 CFR 397.5 mandatory "in attendance" time may be included in break if no other duties performed]
60/70-Hour Limit
May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
60/70-Hour Limit
May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. Must include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. home terminal time, and may only be used once per week, or 168 hours, measured from the beginning of the previous restart.
Sleeper Berth Provision
Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and may split the sleeper-berth time into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours.
Sleeper Berth Provision
Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.

The 11 hour driving limit and the 14 hour on duty limit have not been changed. The work week though will be cut by a potential estimate of 15 % from 80-82 hours to 70 hours.

Primary Concern of Trucking Industry is Utilization

The big concern of the industry is that the decrease in hours will cause an under utilization of trucking capacity. This could also lead to loss of drivers. See the article in fleetowner magazine. So be it if we are going to save lives. My thought is the railroads are more efficient and safer and their continued rebirth  in the long run will save our highway system and improve the economy. Thet certainly can pick up any slack caused by underutilization.

For a comprehensive review and my expanded commentary on the new trucking hours of service rules see my Columbus truck accident blog and my article titled Trucking Industry Grumbles About New Hours of Service Rules .

Needless to say, despite our difference of opinion, if an unsafe tractor trailer operator or trucking company injures you, you can count on us to be your uncompromising attorney and counselor at law that will advance your interests against any trucking company that negligently harms you. Sadly many truck crashes involve serious injury and death.

Further Government Source:

About the author:

Anthony Castelli Attorney is a vetted member of the circle of legal trust. He has over 32 years experience as a personal injury lawyer in Ohio. His internet properties focusing on Columbus motor vehicle accidents, injuries, and death claims are and

He has multiple other website properties and Google plus pages.