Some members of the trucking industry are pushing Congress to ease back on a trucking safety law that limits the number of hours that truckers may work in any given week. That regulation, which went into effect in July 2013, sets a 70-hour cap on the workweek for truck drivers in the United States in order to prevent fatigue-related truck crashes. Once they reach that limit, truckers are required to take an extended break before driving again.
Federal safety regulators estimate that limiting the work week for truck drivers to 70 hours per week would prevent 1,400 truck accidents per year in the United States. By doing so, the regulation was expected to save 19 lives and prevent 560 injuries annually. However, recent legislation could suspend that rule and reinstate the previous limit of 82 hours per week.
Fatal truck accidents have been on the rise in the U.S. since 2009, following a five-year period of decline. In 2012, truck crashes killed 3,912 people nationwide and injured thousands more. Truck driver fatigue, which can cause impairments similar to those caused by alcohol, was a factor in many of those crashes. The hours-of-service limit was based in part on sleep science and medical research showing how human beings respond to fatigue and what they need to recover from it.
A fully loaded semi truck can weigh up to 40 tons, which is many times more than the average passenger vehicle. As a result, crashes involving semis and other large commercial trucks have the potential to cause tremendous amounts of damage. Trucking companies and drivers can often be held liable to crash victims for their losses, including loss of income, medical costs and other damages.
Source: The Insurance Journal, “Some Trucking Firms Want Congress to Ease Safety Limit on Truckers’ Hours,” Jeff Plungis, June 5, 2014