Senate Advances Bill to Reverse Recently Revised Trucking Restart Rule
The United States Senate has advanced an amendment to federal law that would reverse anti-fatigue trucking rules that were implemented last summer by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in order to combat the danger of truckers who spent too many hours behind the wheel. The change would permit commercial truck drivers to log 82 hours a week behind the wheel rather than the 60 or 70 hour per week limit currently in place. This is a reversal of the law that went into effect in July 2013. The change was made part of a transportation spending bill earlier this month.
The proposed amendment would suspend the requirement that truck drivers include two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods in their 34 hour restart and be limited to one restart within a week. The original rule was imposed because of the prevalence of driver fatigue as a cause of semi-truck accidents. Currently, a truck driver who ends a work week at 2 a.m. on Saturday could start a new work week at 5 a.m. Monday. If the amendment becomes law, the restart provision would revert to how it was before the revised rules took effect July 1 of last year. Based on such a revision, the truck driver described above could start a new work week at 12 p.m. Sunday, leading to more fatigued drivers on the road.
The current attempt to roll back the restart provision occurs against the back drop of a devastating recent fatigue-based trucking accident that involved a limousine in which comedian Tracy Morgan and others were riding. The horrific truck crash involved a Wal-Mart truck driver who allegedly had not slept for more than 24 hours prior to the collision. Tracy Morgan was severely injured while another comedian died in the fatal trucking accident. Other individuals were injured when the tractor-trailer plowed into the back of the vehicle in which Tracy Morgan was traveling.
The FMCSA reports that fatigue is a leading cause in semi-truck accidents that claim the lives of nearly 4,000 people annually. The restart rule implemented last year was based on studies indicating that sleep deprivation impacts driving in ways similar to intoxication by diminishing decision-making and slowing response times. The current rule was enacted after considerable study regarding the safety benefit of truck drivers getting more sleep during off duty periods.
Those advocating on behalf of rolling back the restart rule contend that the current rule means that commercial trucks are more likely to be on the roads when kids are riding to school and adults are traveling to work; however, the most vocal backers of the roll back are part of the trucking industry. The amendment backed by the trucking industry is hardly surprising as the trucking industry has consistently opposed anti-fatigue rules that take commercial truck drivers off the road and interfere with profit margins. Our experienced Georgia trucking accident attorneys at Montlick & Associates see the impact of tired truck drivers firsthand, so we sincerely hope the restart rule is not reversed.
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