Republicans Eye Trucker Deregulation

GOP lawmakers in Washington recently blocked some truck driver fatigue rules, and safety advocates feel that bold move may be just the beginning.

Previously, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued rules that require truckers to take at least two consecutive nights off if they work more than 75 hours in any one week, and also requiring that at least part of that rest period be between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. But Congressional Republicans added a provision to a must-pass spending bill that prevents these rules from going into effect. Furthermore, with the GOP in control of the presidency and both houses of Congress beginning in January, shipping industry lobbyists plan to push legislation allowing large trucks to be longer and heavier than ever before. While some advocates, like Joan Claybrook, feel that shipping companies “don’t care about safety no matter what they say,” both truckers and owners have consistently fought such regulations, saying they are intrusive and may stifle innovation in the area of driverless trucks.

Former National Transportation Safety Board chairman Jim Hall predicted that the rule-blocking rider was just the beginning of “an open season on safety in this coming Congress.”

Truck Driver Fatigue

Operator fatigue is the primary factor in about 13 percent of the fatal large truck and bus crashes in Louisiana. Furthermore, researchers believe that fatigue has almost nothing to do with time-on-task and is very much related to time-of-day, so drivers who adjust their sleep schedules for a certain job are probably still fatigued, even though they had several hours of sleep. Finally, conventional wisdom is that fatigued truck drivers should take brief naps and then continue on their way. But, there is a significant sleep hangover in the first hour after waking, during which time truck driver fatigue may be even worse than it was before.

Liability Issues

There is no test for drowsy drivers, and some law enforcement agency accident reports do not even include “drowsiness” or “fatigue” as possible factors. So, to determine breach of duty, attorneys often examine risk factors, such as:

  • Awake Time: Seventeen hours is normally the cutoff between alert enough to drive and too sleepy to operate heavy machinery.
  • Time of Day: As mentioned earlier, everyone has a circadian rhythm of awake time and sleep time, and it does not change on demand. It’s like the old saying goes — you can take the person out of the routine but you can’t take the routine out of the person.
  • Work Schedule: Shift workers are six times more likely to be fatigued than regular 9-to-5 employees.

If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) demonstrates more than one of these risk factors, the tortfeasor was probably a fatigued truck driver.

For prompt assistance with a large truck crash or other negligence claim, contact Lee Hoffoss or another experienced Lake Charles personal injury attorney from Hoffoss Devall. We routinely handle matters throughout the Lake area.