Truck driver fatigue is a factor in 15% of truck accidents involving deaths and other injuries, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration — the government agency generally in charge of promoting trucking safety. Despite that sad reality, in 2004 the federal government catered to the trucking industry and its lobby by changing the rules concerning hours that a trucker may drive, actually increasing the hours and resulting trucker fatigue hazard. Soon, even car accidents and SUV rollovers could be surpassed in frequency in Texas by fatigue-related truck accidents. In fact, I would not be surprised to see an increase in driver fatigue-related wrecks, particularly considering the influx of substandard Mexico trucks and their Mexico-trained (if at all) drivers.
A recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) website article (http://www.iihs.org/research/topics/trucks.html — see Vol. 41, No. 8) points out that since those new hours-in-service rules went into effect, truckers have been driving more hours and falling asleep more frequently. In fact, the IIHS stated that, in 2005, the proportion of truckers who reported falling asleep in the preceding month increased to 21%, from about 13% in 2003.
In a related note, the IIHS also reported that the FMCSA has announced plans to require electronic recorders on trucks. Such a “black box” device will monitor hours that its truck driver is driving, thereby making it much more difficult for the trucker to hide his real driving time by “doctoring” or altering his logbook entries of hours driven, rests taken, and so on. (Ironically, the safety-minded IIHS itself has been pushing the federal government to require recorders in trucks for some 20 years.)
With ever-increasing truck traffic as a result of “just-in-time” inventories, NAFTA rules allowing Mexico-based tractor-trailers onto American roads, and the further decline of the rail industry, I believe that the government should take immediate steps to lower — and not raise — the number of hours that a trucker can drive without rest. Please do feel free to contact me at any time (help@YantaLaw.com or 800-313-2555) if you would like more information on how you can join the fight against trucker fatigue and for improved trucking safety.