Our fellow Tennessee attorneys, as well a truck accident lawyers from all over the United States, have rallied with highway safety advocates for years over government truck driver hours of service regulations. But, does the problem lay in the governing of truck driver hours, or in the work habits of truck drivers who are forced to work under employers who demand more work, less rest?
Truck drivers themselves aren’t quoted with complaints about their long hours, but that may have more to do with the fact that, for them, long hours produce more miles and more miles make them more money. Truckers are not salaried, but paid by the number of miles they drive. It’s an employer-driven system that harkens back to the dark days of 19th century sweat shops. Garment makers were “sweated” to produce because they were paid by the piece, and never made aware of how much — or how little — work would be available after the current project. Seamstress or truck driver, a wage worker can’t assume there will be more work tomorrow or the next day. Naturally, they want to get while the getting is good!
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of the United States Department of Transportation establishes the working and resting hours of truck drivers and is lobbied constantly to change them. Hours of service (HOS) regulations are the center of a heated debate between highway safety advocates and shipping companies, pitting commerce against circadian rhythms. Truck accident lawyers are the only ones accomplishing anything in that fight. Unfortunately, it’s only after an accident victim is seriously hurt, or after a family member is killed by a truck. In spite of all the arguing, there are still 4,000 fatalities and 100,000 injuries involving big trucks each year. As any experienced driver knows, driving while fatigued lowers reaction times and increases a driver’s risk of dozing off at the wheel. When truckers drive on too little sleep, it’s a recipe for a deadly truck accident.
Currently, truck drivers are required by the FMCSA HOS regulations to take 8 hours of rest plus 2 hours off-duty in a 24-hour work cycle. That allows them up to 14 hours of driving time per day. In a regular 5-day work week, that would put a truck driver behind the wheel for up to 70 hours. But, also, at any point during their work week, a driver can do a “34-hour restart.” After those 34 consecutive hours of rest, the driver’s 70-hour work week starts over.
As Tennessee attorneys who deal with local, Chattanooga truck accidents every day, we know that truck accidents due to fatigue increase significantly after the 10th hour of driving. By the 17th hour on duty, the number of crashes attributed to fatigue hits 25%. And, yes, we realize the drivers aren’t allowed to drive 17 consecutive hours.
But they do. And some alter their written log books so that there is no record of their FMCSA HOS violation.
While the battle over regulations continues in the nation’s Capital, Chattanoogans, Tennesseans and victims all over the U.S. struggle to recover from traumatic brain injury, spinal injury and emotional trauma caused by a truck accident. The Tennessee attorneys at the McMahan Law Firm are skilled at digging into the real causes of truck accidents. If the driver who caused your accident altered the HOS log books, we’ll know. If the driver’s employer was cited for previous FMCSA violations, we’ll know that, too. Don’t let a trucking company’s insurance adjuster talk you into settling for whatever they offer. The trucking companies’ fight for more commerce at the expense of sleep and highway safety demands the attention of a truck accident lawyer who can get you a fair settlement for your injuries.