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Alabama Tractor-Trailer Accidents and Hour-of-Service Limits

Aug 13, 2012 - Truck Accidents by

Road Safe America and other traffic safety advocates are pushing The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to adopt hours-of-service regulations for truckers similar to those in place for airline pilots.

“Truck drivers don’t have co-pilots, don’t have auto-pilot and must stay especially alert whenever driving since they share the public thoroughfares with the motoring public,” said RSA President Steve Owings. The Owings family lost their son in a trucking accident. 1125238_forklift_1.jpg

New limits for pilots have been set at 8 or 9 daily hours of flying. In comparison, the feds reduced the number of trucking hours some drivers can log each day from 11 hours to 10. The revised rules were trumpeted as increased enforcement after a relaxation of old rules passed under the Administration of George W. Bush.

Alabama trucking accident attorneys know the more hours a trucker logs behind the wheel, the greater the risk for an accident. Even under the new, tougher, rules, truck drivers are permitted to log a 70-hour workweek behind the wheel. And the law allows them to work up to 14 hours at a stretch.

“The new 70-hour work week limit is a step in the right direction but it still allows 75% more hours than the average work week in America,” Owings said.

The new rules come in the wake of hearings before the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, which heard scientific testimony that humans become fatigued after 8 hours and fatigue levels rise exponentially each hour through the 12th hour.

The fact is truckers have long made a mockery of hours-of-service requirements. And, as long as the rules rely upon handwritten log books and the honor system, authorities are paying little more than lip service to the safety of motorists who must share the road with these 80,000 pound rigs.

Owings and other officials want electronic data recorders made mandatory, which would make the old paper logbook system obsolete. Advocates are also calling for an end to tying trucker pay to miles traveled, which only provides a cash incentive to break the rules.

“Currently though, there is no financial incentive not to work truck drivers to death, which is quite literally what is happening,” Owings said.

It’s an issue of particular concern because of the growing trucker shortage. As we reported recently on our Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog, there are expected to be 330,000 new trucker jobs by 2020.

Among the new provisions in the Hours-of-Service Law:

-Work week can only be restarted once per week, after 34 hours off, including two consecutive periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

-Eight hour break required between shifts.

-11-Hour daily driving limit (10 hours for passenger carrying drivers).

-Drivers using a sleeper birth must take at least 8 hours off but can split the time into two periods as long as each period is at least 2 hours.

There are many causes of trucking accidents. But tired truckers, those with untreated sleep apnea or sleep disorders, and truckers who are not following the rules are at higher risk for accidents. An experienced Tuscaloosa, Alabama personal injury law firm should always be called to protect the rights of motorists involved in a traffic collision with a tractor-trailer or other large commercial truck. A thorough investigation into the cause of the crash may reveal hours-of-service violations, poor maintenance or other negligence, which may have contributed to the accident.

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