New HOS regulations reduce truck driver fatigue-at least in theory

The recently passed FMCSA regulations will likely be effective at reducing truck driver fatigue, study says.

Driver fatigue is a major safety concern in the trucking industry, due to the inherent long hours of being a long-haul truck driver. In recent years, study after study has been published showing the connection between driver fatigue and the increased risk of truck accidents. To help alleviate the problem of fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) passed new hours of service (HOS) regulations addressing the issue about a year ago.

The regulations work by regulating how long interstate truck drivers can work between rest periods. The new HOS regulations limited truck drivers to working 70 hours per week a 12-hour decrease from the previous regulations. In addition, the new rules required drivers to rest for 34 hours over two consecutive nights before they may begin a new workweek. Under the prior HOS rules, drivers were required to rest for 34 hours, but the rest period did not have to include two consecutive nights.

Now that the new rules have been in force for almost a year, the FMCSA commissioned a study to see whether the changes are effective at reducing driver fatigue. The study, conducted by the Washington State University Sleep and Performance Research Center, compared the driving performance of two groups of truck drivers. One of the groups had a 34-hour rest period similar to one prescribed by the old HOS regulations. The other group had the same length of time to rest, but had two consecutive night periods, as required by the new HOS regulations.

The researchers found that the driver group with the rest period that mimicked the new HOS regulations was better able to pay attention, stay in their lanes and stay focused than the group that had the same rest period under the old HOS regulations.

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Despite the study's findings, there has not yet been any evidence that the new regulations have yet led to a measurable decrease in truck accidents caused by driver fatigue a point that has lately been criticized in the media by some within the trucking industry. However, the FMCSA has announced that it is confident that its position will be vindicated with the passage of time.

Even if the FMCSA is successful in reducing driver fatigue, it likely will not end the problem of truck accidents, as they are often caused by factors other than driver fatigue, such as driver inexperience, improper loading or maintenance, or drug and alcohol use. If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck accident, it is wise to seek the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can determine whether driver negligence was to blame for the accident and work to ensure that you receive compensation for your medical bills and other expenses that you are entitled to by law.


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