The federal government recently decided to loosen trucking safety regulations and truckers are welcoming the deregulation of an industry that they say lawmakers do not understand. However, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulators feel that motor carrier safety should not be undermined at a time when truck accidents are on the rise.
The sleep apnea rule, drafted by FMCSA regulators under the Obama administration, is among the halted safety regulations, which would have required drivers to be screened and treated for sleep apnea. Rules requiring speed-limiting devices, underride guards, and automatic emergency braking systems on trucks have also been put on hold.
The Impact of Drowsy Driving
The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stresses the importance of regulations aimed at drowsy driving, citing a recent crash involving a tour bus and a semitrailer. Drivers of both trucks allegedly fell asleep behind the wheel and likely suffered from undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. The crash fatally injured 13 people, injured 31 others, and was named one of the deadliest highway crashes in recent years.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving causes up to 100,000 accidents per year. In a study, the FMCSA found that up to 28 percent of commercial truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea, which can cause drivers to become drowsy and fall asleep behind the wheel. The executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition notes that there are over 4,000 fatalities a year attributable to truck accidents. He states that with that number going up steadily, it is troubling that the administration is pulling back on rules aimed at reducing those numbers.
Truck Drivers vs Regulators
However, certain truck drivers complain that regulators do not understand the needs of the trucking industry. Several owner-operators and owners of small trucking firms recently spoke at the House Small Business Committee hearing, Highway to Headache: Federal Regulations on the Small Trucking Industry. The president of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association states that regulations like the federal hours of service rule, which limits truckers to drive 11 hours per day followed by a mandated 10 hours of rest, does not consider common hang-ups of the job like traffic delays. Many truckers resent the rule because they are paid by the mile, not the hour.
Truckers’ hours will be strictly regulated when electronic logging devices (ELD) become effective. To date, truckers are permitted to use paper log books to track their hours, a system that allows records to be easily falsified. Many midsize and large trucking companies are already using ELDs, however smaller trucking companies and independent drivers claim that the rule is cost prohibitive. ELDs cost about $500. A new FMCSA regulator will soon be confirmed, and it remains to be seen what stance will be taken on ELDs and other trucking industry safety regulations.
Columbia Truck Accident Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Represent Victims of Negligent Drivers
If you have been injured in a truck accident due to drowsy driving, an improperly maintained truck, a trucking company’s failure to abide by trucking regulations, or any other instance of negligence, contact the Columbia truck accident lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A.. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 803-929-3600.
We represent victims of truck accidents throughout South Carolina, including Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, Newberry County.