In 2017, The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that over 90,000 motor vehicle accidents are caused by drowsiness. This led to nearly 50,000 people injured and nearly 800 people killed due to drowsiness.
In August 2019, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed a new rule that could change how commercial drivers are regulated for hours of service. This change would not affect the number of drivable hours, but instead add more flexibility to the driver, in order to prevent drowsiness behind the wheel. The rule change is proposed as follows:
- The Agency proposes to increase safety and flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on duty, not driving status, rather than off duty.
- The Agency proposes to modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
- The Agency proposes to allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.
- The Agency proposes to modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
- The Agency proposes a change to the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum onduty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
How is sleep apnea related to commercial drivers?
The FMCSA and the American Transportation Research Institute of the American Trucking Associations conducted a study and found that 28% of commercial truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is defined as:
- Loud Snoring
- Morning headaches and nausea
- Gasping or choking while sleeping
- Loss of sex drive/impotence
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Irritability and/or feelings of depression
- Disturbed sleep
- Concentration and memory problems
- Frequent nighttime urination
These conditions can prove to be fatal, especially while operating a commercial vehicle. The traits of the job can even cause sleep apnea. Common causes of sleep apnea:
- A family history of sleep apnea
- Having a small upper airway
- Being overweight
- Having a recessed chin, small jaw, or a large overbite
- A large neck size (17 inches or greater for men, 16 inches or greater for women)
- Smoking and alcohol use
- Being age 40 or older
Since sleep apnea seems to be almost common among truckers, it can result in unsafe “drowsy driving.” The goal of the proposed hours of service is to reduce these hours of continual service in order to fight drowsy driving. This, in theory, will help make our road-ways safer.
However, The FMCSA creates the rules, but not all drivers follow them. Many drivers are incentivized to deliver products ahead of time by the company that they deliver for. Companies often add in bonuses that compensate drivers that deliver products ahead of time. This means that not all commercial drivers on the road are following safety regulations.
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Why is it important to have a good truck accident attorney?
FMCSA regulations are updated quarterly. Not all drivers of commercial vehicles are going to be aware of the new regulations nor will they care to find out about them. If you or a loved one have been injured or killed because of an accident caused by a commercial vehicle, it is important to have someone representing you who is properly equipped to handle your case. The attorneys at Hammack Law Firm keep an up-to-date copy of the regulations in our office to be fully equipped to give you the most value in your case.
If you need an attorney for truck accidents, bus accidents, garbage truck accidents, or commercial vans, then call the Greenville injury attorneys at Hammack Law Firm. Together, Paul Hammack and Jamie Ackermann have over 50 years of legal experience and over 20 years of experience on the defense side. We know the insurance companies’ game, and can use our knowledge to help you in your case today.