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Truck accidents prompt changes in driving rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed several changes to driving rules for commercial haulers and semi-trucks in response to a number of fatal truck accidents. The administration took similar action in 2004 when it required truckers to rest for a minimum of 10 hours between shifts, an increase of two hours.

The rule changes have led to a decrease in driver fatigue and subsequently a drop in the number of fatal accidents, but administration officials say that truckers still frequently drive while fatigued, resulting in an "unacceptably high" number of fatal truck crashes. For instance, a 2006 Florida accident left seven children dead after a tractor-trailer collided with a car as it waited behind a stopped school bus. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board eventually discovered that the driver of the truck had not slept for 34 hours, with the exception of a short nap.

The proposed FMCSA changes hope to prevent such accidents, reducing the maximum shift for a truck driver from 11 hours of driving for every 14-hour shift to 10 hours. During particularly long shifts, drivers would also be legally obligated to take a one-hour break. They would also be forced to take more time off. Officials are scheduled to reach a decision regarding the rules by late October.

A representative for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said that statistics regarding driver fatigue can be misleading. Officially, fatigue is shown as a cause in less than 2 percent of all deadly commercial trucking accidents, he explained, but fatigue is typically noted only if the driver reports being tired. Hopefully any new rules that are enacted will help ensure the safety of all motorists in Florida and across the country.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Trucker-fatigue accidents prompt federal agency to propose new driving rules," Christine Show, Aug. 29, 2011

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