DoT: Easing Regulations Governing Hours Truck Drivers Can Drive to Avoid Fatigue

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In July, the Department of Transportation announced that it would be relaxing the regulations pertaining to how many hours truck drivers can drive without taking mandatory breaks in order to avoid fatigue-related truck accidents. Safety advocates have now warned that this will only increase the number of South Carolina truck accidents that occur on highways and roads every day.


Current Regulations Not Stringent Enough to Prevent Massive Accidents

While the current regulations limit truck drivers to 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour time period, drivers must also have 10 consecutive hours off-duty before starting the clock again and must take a 30-minute break if they are going to be driving for more than eight hours. Compliance is now measured on electronic logging devices and drivers are penalized by potentially being out of service for a day or more if they violate the rules. 

Still, even with these regulations in place, there were more than 4,000 large truck fatal crashes in 2017 and close to 350,000 non-fatal crashes that involved injuries. This represented a 10 percent increase from the previous year. Most of these fatal crashes occurred in rural areas and a significant majority occur between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM, where truckers were identified as being asleep or fatigued. 


The Truck Industry’s Wish List

The trucking industry has long lobbied to increase the number of hours that can be driven in that 14-hour period, as well as lobbying for only requiring three consecutive hours instead of 10 and eliminating the 30-minute break requirement for more than eight hours of driving. This would effectively result in a 17-hour work window, which significantly increases the risk of drowsy driving-related truck accidents. This is where the proposed regulations are likely headed, although they have not yet been released to the public because they are currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.

According to safety advocates, instead of increasing risk factors that contribute to accidents, government agencies should be mandating safety technologies, such as software that restricts a truck’s speed. Instead, other changes that may also be coming include:

  • Expanding the 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 to 14 hours
  • Expanding the adverse driving exception that expands driving time by two hours
  • Splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for trucks with sleeper-berth compartments


If You Have Been in a Truck Accident Here in South Carolina Call Our Law Firm 

If you are involved in a truck accident, our Greenville, South Carolina trucking accident lawyers are prepared to help you and your family. Contact our lawyers today to find out more.

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