The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced a new rule that reduces the maximum number of hours a tractor-trailer truck driver can work in a week. Under the old rule, tractor-trailer truck drivers could work up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new rule limits a driver’s work week to 70 hours, reducing the maximum number of hours a tractor-trailer truck driver can work within a week by 12 hours. The rule also limits the number of hours a tractor-trailer truck driver can drive per day to 11.
Additionally, the new rule contains the following requirements:
• Tractor-trailer truck drivers cannot work more than eight hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes.
• Tractor-trailer truck drivers who work the maximum number of hours per week must take at least two entire nights of rest between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
• Tractor-trailer truck drivers have an option to get a “34-hour restart” by asking for at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty once during every seven-day period.
Companies and drivers that commit violations of this rule could face severe penalties. For example, Trucking Companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour daily driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense and the drivers themselves could be fined up to $2,750 per offense. Commercial tractor-trailer truck drivers and companies are required to comply with this rule by July 1, 2013.
Every year, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports an average of over 300,000 crashes on our nation’s highways involving large tractor-trailer trucks. Over 600 of those crashes involve fatalities. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood praised this new rule, noting that “truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely. This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives.”
Improving Tractor-Trailer Technology
Attempts are also being made to improve the technology used within the tractor-trailer truck industry and with other commercially driven vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed the Truck Multiplexing (Truck Mux) project to better equip tractor-trailer truck drivers with communications and technology between the tractor and the trailer, because tractor-trailer accidents frequently occur due to a loss of control between the two units.
The NHTSA has also made other suggestions (such as advancing tractor-trailer truck lighting, improving tractor-trailer truck brakes and installing both rear and side object detection on tractor-trailer trucks) in an attempt to decrease the number of technological issues that can cause a tractor-trailer truck accident.
If You Are Involved in a Tractor-Trailer Truck Accident
If you or a loved one is involved in an accident involving a tractor-trailer truck, you should obtain the following information as soon as safely possible after the accident:
• License plate number of all vehicles involved;
• Any company names or identification information on the cab and trailer;
• Driver information including name, driver’s license number, and insurance information;
• Insurance information for the truck and trailer owner;
• Length of skid marks, if visible;
• The condition of the tractor-trailer truck’s tires;
• Road conditions at the time of the accident; and
• Names and contact information of any witnesses.
In addition to gathering the above information:
• Take photographs of all vehicles involved and of the scene of the accident;
• Seek medical attention immediately;
• Obtain a police report, including the name of the investigating officer; and
• Contact a qualified tractor-trailer truck accident attorney as soon as possible.