Will truck driver rest period rule change lead to more accidents in CA?

Under a new rule suspension, truckers can log fewer weekly overnight rests and more driving hours. This may raise the risk of fatigue-related crashes.

Fatigue is a common problem for truck drivers, since they often work long and unusual hours. According to The New York Times, national data suggests that fatigue causes 13 percent of large truck accidents. Federal regulations aim to reduce this risk by requiring truckers to take rest breaks and limiting their working hours. However, the recent suspension of one regulation may leave people in San Diego in greater danger of experiencing truck accidents.

Rest rule suspension

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has suspended a rule affecting the "restart periods" that truckers must complete between workweeks. When this rule was effective, truckers had to complete two overnight rests during their 34-hour off periods. These rests had to extend from at least 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Now, truckers must only complete one overnight rest.

Besides increasing the risk of fatigued driving, this change may allow truckers to work more hours in a shorter period. As Bloomberg explains, the overnight rest requirement essentially limited truckers to working 70 hours per week. Now, truck drivers who structure their rests carefully may log up to 82 hours each week. This may also raise the overall risk of accidents.

Study pending

The suspension is effective until Oct. 1, when the FMCSA will complete a study into the effectiveness of the rule. According to the FMCSA, this study will compare drivers who log two overnight rests with drivers who complete just one. Researchers will measure or track the following factors for each driver:

  • Level of fatigue
  • Rate of near-accidents
  • Involvement in actual accidents

According to The New York Times, past research already suggests that cutting out one rest period may have harmful effects. Drivers who only logged one overnight rest were more likely to drift from their lanes. They were also less capable of maintaining focus on driving.

If the FMCSA study reaches similar conclusions, the rest rule could be implemented again. Still, the risk of fatigue-related accidents occurring during the intervening months may be significant.

Outlook in California

Data from the California Highway Patrol reveals that truck accidents already take a deadly toll in California. In 2012 alone, trucks, truck tractors and truck tractors with trailers were involved in 237 fatal car accidents. The same year, these vehicles played a role in 5,094 accidents that resulted in injuries. These figures may only become worse under the current rule suspension.

The consequences of truck accidents can be life-changing. This makes it essential for the victims of needless accidents to secure adequate compensation for their medical costs and suffering. Anyone who has been hurt in a truck accident involving fatigue or other preventable factors should consider seeking legal advice. A personal injury attorney may be able to help a victim understand the available legal options or seek recourse.

Keywords: truck, accident, injury