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On Monday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began enforcing a new set of rules affecting truck drivers. The new rules are an attempt to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents caused by driver fatigue.

According to statistics published by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), every year there are approximately 3,000 to 4,000 fatalities caused by motor vehicle accidents involving large trucks or buses. Of these fatal truck and bus accidents, about 13 percent are attributed to driver fatigue. The FMCSA expects the rule to affect about 15 percent of all commercial truck drivers. Still, it projects that the new rules could save 19 lives per year.

In a recent interview, Anne Ferro, who heads the FMCSA, stated that the rules were developed based on extensive research exploring the effects of driver fatigue, namely how it impacts a driver’s ability to stay alert and to operate a truck in a safe manner.

The new rules establish three key provisions:

· Commercial truck drivers are required to take a 30 minute break within the first eight hours of bring on the road;

· Commercial truck drivers must take 34 hours off of work; this must occur once per week. It is required that this time off include two periods that span from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. This “restart” time provides drivers with an opportunity to rest and catch up on sleep.

· Commercial truck drivers are limited to driving a maximum of 70 hours per week. This is a 15 percent reduction in the number of hours commercial truck drivers were allowed to work under the old law.

New rules are welcomed by truck drivers, though pressure from trucking companies remains an issue.

Commercial truck drivers also recognize that driving while fatigued is one of the greatest hazards on the road. After 36 hours of continuous driving, a truck operator’s brain simply cannot function properly.

The main criticism of the rules from commercial truck drivers relates to the 30 minute break requirement. Though it is viewed as a reasonable measure, it is considered unnecessary. Most commercial truck drivers seem to agree that good drivers will stop when necessary, regardless of the requirements.

However, commercial truck drivers state that they also face pressure from companies to deliver goods on time. For this reason, taking breaks is sometimes not an option. The FMCSA points out that it is illegal for trucking companies to pressure drivers into operating their vehicles passed the legal limits. New technology, which substitutes paper logs that drivers used in the past to note hours, will make it more difficult for trucking companies to falsify records.

New rules will have a financial impact on truck drivers, but will provide an overall economic gain.

The new rules will take a financial toll on commercial truck drivers, who are typically paid by the mile or by the load. According to FMCSA estimates, the new rules will cost nearly half a billion dollars to the trucking industry. However, it reasoned that the enhanced safety and driver health will result in an economic gain of $250 Million.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, contact an attorney immediately.

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