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How Rules Governing Long-Haul Truckers Can Impact Your Safety

Semi-truck

When semi-trucks and tractor-trailers get into accidents with smaller passenger vehicles, the driver of the smaller car is almost always the one who pays the price. Out of all motor vehicle accidents each year that involve a fatality, approximately 25% of those are reported to involve a large commercial vehicle. Driver error is believed to be responsible for 80% of all large truck accidents, and the most common form of large truck and tractor trailer error is driver fatigue. If the companies employing long-haul truck drivers impose pressure on drivers to make good time on their drives, this pressure has dangerous consequences for the passenger vehicle drivers with whom they share the road.

In order to keep both the drivers of trucks and passenger vehicles safe, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has enacted rules regarding how many hours in a day long-haul truck drivers are permitted to work in a given day or week, known as the Hours of Service regulations. These rules have been a source of great contention among drivers, carrier companies, and safety organizations, and arguably remain liberal in the volume of work drivers are permitted to do. Currently, drivers are allowed to be on duty for 14 hours each day, including 11 hours behind the wheel. Drivers must take one 30-minute break each day, which must be taken before the driver has been on the road for 8 consecutive hours. Drivers must take at least ten consecutive hours off-duty between these 14-hour shifts.

While professional truck drivers are more accustomed to spending long stretches on the road than the average individual, humans simply require rest in order to retain mental sharpness while operating an unwieldy and potentially dangerous vehicle. Even these permissive rules can easily be worked around by unscrupulous drivers and companies. Drivers are required to keep log books noting when they begin and end shifts and when they take breaks. While some companies have moved to an electronic log book that connects directly to the truck’s engine, and future legislation may make electronic logs mandatory, drivers are permitted to use paper logs, with the risk of falsification.

If you have been injured in a semi-truck or tractor-trailer accident, contact the New Jersey and New York truck accident Law Offices of Andrew R. Jacobs at 973-532-9681.

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