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Congress repeals commercial trucking rest rules right before holiday travel season


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Amendments that were attached to the omnibus spending bill by Senator Suzanne Collins of Maine, have temporarily suspended the commercial trucking rest rules developed and implemented by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The commercial trucking rest rules were researched, formulated and implemented to reduce the prevalence of fatigued commercial drivers, and thus, reduce the number of fatigued-driving accidents on highways and freeways.

However, trucking industry organizations and commercial trucking lobbyists have claimed that the rules have had unintended consequences. The go-to example provided by these organizations typical centers around the ”home rest rule”. In certain circumstances where the driver may be one minute late, the home rest rule can, indeed, have the harsh consequence of delaying a driver from setting out until the morning rush hour. Unfortunately rather than making corrections to this potentially unduly harsh impact, Senator Collins’ amendment fully suspended the regulations and deprives both the public and industry of the opportunity to tweak the rule to get it right. Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak explains.

What Did Previous Regulations Require?

In addition to federal regulations that set forth the requirements for a driver’s own health and physical well-being, regulations also exist that restrict the manner a commercial vehicle operator can work.  Before the hours of service, regulations were suspended by the Collins amendment, they essentially required a driver of a commercial vehicle to limit his or her driving. Aside from the home rest rule, there were three main hours-of-service regulations that a commercial driver would be required to comply with. To start with, §395.3(a)(3) of the federal regulations limit a driver to 11 hours of driving once he or she sets out on his or her journey. Furthermore, Section 395.3(ii) mandates that a driver must take a 30-minute break if he or she has been driving for 8 or more hours. Additionally, the 11 hours of driving is to be completed within a 14-hour driving window. Once the 14-hour driving window has been reached, the driver is required to rest for a minimum of 10 hours. Depending on whether the driver is operating on a 7 or 8 day week, he or she may drive for up to 60 or 70 hours, respectively.

Importance of Fatigued Commercial Driver Safeguards

According to NHTSA publication, Traffic Safety Facts, fatigued driving was present in approximately two-and-a-half percent accidents that produced a fatality. Scientific studies have shown that sleep is a biological need and the effects of tiredness can be measured long before an individual feels fatigued or tired. Fatigue and the need for rest can lead to severe deficits in cognitive skills, decision-making abilities, reaction time, the ability to maintain focus and many others problems.  While nearly all recognize the severe effects of extreme fatigue, many are surprised to learn that even moderate levels of tiredness can create significant impairments. At the most extreme levels of fatigue the individual can experience confusion, psychosis, or fall asleep involuntarily. The use of alcohol, prescription medications, or illegal drugs can exacerbate these effects.

Second Attempt Proves Successful for Trucking Industry

The first attempt at removing these fatigued commercial driver safeguards occurred just before the now infamous commercial trucking accident where a Walmart truck struck Tracy Morgan’s limo. The public outrage and furor following the severe brain injuries inflicted on beloved actor Tracy Morgan and the wrongful death of James “Jimmy Mack” McNair scuttled plans to challenge the regulations then. However now several months on with the public distracted by Christmas shopping and the impending holiday season this amendment was pushed through while attached to an unrelated spending bill. While the amendment is certainly something of an early Christmas present for the trucking industry, motorists throughout the nation are unlikely to extend a warm welcome. The suspension of these hours-of-service safety rules that kept fatigued commercial drivers off the road is likely to increase the likelihood and rate of fatigued driving accidents this holiday travel season.

If you or a family member has been seriously injured or wrongfully killed due to a commercial trucking accident the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak can fight for you. We work to obtain compensation for your severe injuries and other damages. To schedule your free and confidential initial consultation, call (479) 316-0438 or contact us online.

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