Big rigs will make a big move for highway safety now that a new federal rule is in place to revise the amount of time truck drivers can spend on the road.
The new hours-of-service (HOS) rule is aimed at preventing highway accidents by reducing work fatigue among commercial truck drivers. The rule ought to save lives by changing the work environment into one where commercial drivers are more rested and alert, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The HOS final rule cuts the total number of hours that a commercial truck driver is allowed to work in a seven-day period by 12 hours ¨C from 82 to 70 hours. Drivers who maximize this 70-hour workweek must include at least two nights of rest during the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. period when the body’s internal clock needs sleep the most, according to the release.
Once during a seven-day workweek, a driver may exercise a 34-hour restart provision. That means if a driver takes a 34-hour break, then he or she can restart the clock on the seven-day workweek.
The rule goes on to dictate that all drivers must take at least a half-hour break for every eight hours of driving time. That break can happen at any time during the eight-hour shift. Professional truck drivers are allowed to continue with the existing 11-hour workday limit that has been the industry maximum under the previous rule.
Heavy fines will be imposed on violators. Trucking companies caught allowing drivers to break the 11-hour-per-day driving limit by more than three hours will be fined $11,000 per offense. Drivers that break this rule can face penalties of as much as $2,750 per offense. The new rule goes into effect July 1, 2013. The DOT expects the new rule will cut down on the number of injuries from truck-related accidents especially in the middle of the night.
A recent highway crash on I-57 in Illinois highlights the dangers created when professional drivers work through the night. At 4:06 a.m., a commercial driver hauling a trailer full of produce rolled the truck over, blocking the Interstate and forcing officials to close the road for four hours during clean up. No one was seriously injured in the wreck and icy conditions played a role in the crash, but the DOT showed its concern about commercial drivers working at that hour with the new rule.
Truck accidents like the one on an icy I-57 at 4:06 in the morning often severely injure or kill the commercial driver operating the truck or other drivers on the road. Professional drivers or other victims of highway truck accidents have a right to be compensated for injuries caused by the negligence of another driver.
In addition to medical bills, accident victims have a right to pursue compensation for pain and suffering and lost wages that are a direct result of the accident.