Feds Roll Back Sleepy Truck Driver Rules

Outgoing President Barack Obama just signed a stopgap spending bill to keep the government operational through April, and as usual, the measure included many non-spending provisions.

Earlier, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives quickly passed the bill, but Senate Democrats delayed the measure, arguing that it should include better government health insurance benefits for coal miners. However, they eventually abandoned their pleas, and the bill passed. Some of the riders included money for Flint, Michigan to upgrade its water supply infrastructure, and drought relief for California. Another rider, largely unreported by most media outlets, blocked a rule mandating a two-night rest period for truckers who worked more than 75 hours in a week. House Republicans inserted the measure before sending the bill to the Senate. Safety advocates predicted that this roll back may be just the first of many over the next four years, as trucking industry lobbyists already plan to target rules that limit large trucks to 80,000 pounds and 28 feet.

Most truck drivers apparently support industry deregulation.
Drowsy Truck Drivers

Fatigued truck and bus drivers kill about 4,000 people a year and seriously injure tens of thousands of other people. In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration first promulgated rules in this area. These rules included the 34-hour “restart” rest period for drivers who logged more than 82 hours in a week, a rule that the FMCSA wanted to expand. Unsurprisingly, the transportation industry has bitterly contested drowsy driving rules and other safety regulations – “safety second” is the unfortunate catchphrase in many businesses. Many truckers also oppose such rules, because they keep drivers off the road for a few extra hours a week, and most drivers are paid by the load, so they more they drive, the more they earn.

Fatigue and alcohol both slow reaction times and impair judgement skills, making it dangerous for both impaired people and sleepy people to operate heavy machinery. In fact, driving after 18 hours without sleep is like driving with a .08 BAC, which is above the legal limit in Georgia.

Evidence in Large Truck Crashes

Fatigue is sometimes difficult to prove in passenger car cases, but it is much easier to prove in large truck and tour bus crashes. Many of these vehicles already have Electronic Logging Devices, and these gadgets become mandatory in December 2017. Previously, drivers manually kept HOS (hours of service) records, and these records were easy for unscrupulous drivers to fake and for careless operators to neglect.

Most ELDs are linked to the vehicle’s operating system, so there are no gaps; most ELDs are also tamper-proof. Furthermore, drivers are still required to keep all supporting records, such as dispatch orders, bills of lading, and expense records, so ELDs are easy to verify.

To keep the insurance company from destroying the truck and the ELD, an attorney will send a spoliation letter to the truck’s owner. This letter directs the owner to preserve all potential evidence in the case, including the ELD.

Speak with our lawyers for free

Fatigued large vehicle drivers cause serious injuries, but there are remedies available. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in Atlanta, contact Butler Tobin. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.