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Trucking Safety Issues Continue

Trucking safety issues are continuing to plague the trucking industry, one of the most important of which is how best to regulate the hours truckers are allowed to be on the road. According to the American Transportation Research Institute, this is the top issue that faces the trucking community. Drowsy and inattentive commercial truck drivers are one of the leading causes of 18 wheeler accidents. While the industry continues to aggressively mandate limits, accidents continue to occur. In July 2013, tighter limits were placed on driver time behind the wheel and measures required truck drivers to take 30 minute breaks after driving a specified number or hours. Unfortunately just setting up rules is not enough. Truck drivers are often paid by the mile or by the job. As long as there is a financial incentive for these truck drivers to disobey the safety rules and get their load to it’s destination as quickly as possible there will be some drivers who find a way to cheat the system. In June, 2015, a trucker in Chattanooga, TN was charged with six counts of vehicular homicide in a deadly crash that killed 6 people, after reports show that he had been driving for 15 consecutive hours, under the influence of narcotics and speeding. (The reports also indicated that he had been driving for 50 hours over the 3 days leading up to the crash and falsified his reports on his driving time.) Federal regulations do not allow a driver to be behind the wheel for more than 11 hours at a time. Drivers are also required to take a minimum 10-hour break after a full day of driving.

According to a spokesperson at the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, it is not uncommon for truck drivers to exceed the limitations on how long they are suppose to be on the road. And trucks admit that while they are supposed to be “sleeping” for the 10-hour break, they are often loading and unloading, parking, eating and showering – so the 10 hour break turns into only 5-6 hours of sleeping.

While these safety measures are meant to cut down on highway fatalities, the industry contests that they lower the pay (and productivity) of drivers. Last summer, the industry claimed that they were short 30,000 drivers in the U.S. According to the Business Insider, “Changes to the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations in 2013 are reducing productivity and as a result, carriers have to add more trucks and drivers to haul the same amount of freight, thus exacerbating the shortage”.

While the industry is stuck between a rock and a hard place, we have seen too many tragic accidents on the highways due to reckless truck drivers and it’s critical we keep this industry highly regulated. We have seen far too many cases where truck drivers have kept two sets of logs, one for the regulators and the real one documenting their actual time and mileage. Driver fatigue, especially behind a mammoth vehicle such as a fully loaded tractor trailer, is a danger to everyone on the road and can have tragic consequences. At Devereaux, Stokes, Fernandez & Leonard we have gone after these truck drivers and employers and been able to win cases for our clients through the use of black box data recorders, accident reconstruction using physical evidence at the scene and the help of a highly trained network of experts with experience in the trucking industry.