Even though public awareness of the hazards of truck driver fatigue is at an all-time high, there is a good chance that Congress will end up again delaying measures designed to help fight the dangerous practice. This is because measures calling for an end to limits on the number of mandatory rest periods truck drivers can use to “restart” their hours of service each week have been tacked on to transportation spending bills currently up for debate. Both the House and Senate bills would indefinitely stay additional legislation regulating trucker rest periods. The House bill would also, if passed, weaken state-level restrictions on truck driver work hours in 20 states (including New York).
Why truck driver fatigue matters
Lawmakers and safety advocates have known for years about the dangers associated with drowsy driving by truckers. Drowsy drivers, even if they don’t physically fall asleep while driving, still deal with dulled reflexes, slower reaction times and slowed thought processes. All these things make it very difficult to safely drive a multi-ton, fully-loaded semi truck at highway speeds while contending with changing traffic levels, weather and road conditions. Simply put, fatigued driving is dangerous for everyone on the road.
The government recognized the dangers posed by tired truck drivers, which is part of the reason why there have been new hours-of-service regulations enacted to limit the number of hours truckers can drive both per day and per week. The public, however, was largely unaware of the problem until the summer of 2014. That is when a high-profile accident shined a spotlight on the issue.
Shining a spotlight
The June 2014 accident was caused when a truck driver, who’d been awake for more than 28 hours, fell asleep behind the wheel of his rig while on the New Jersey Turnpike and collided full-speed with a limo bus carrying comedian Tracy Morgan and several others. Morgan was left with serious injuries, including a brain injury that left him in a coma; his rehabilitation is ongoing. Another passenger, fellow comic James McNair, tragically lost his life in that crash.
Unfortunately, it looks like the American people won’t be able to see if additional regulation of truck driver driving hours would have made our roads safer. Until then, fatigued truck drivers will still be on the roads with us every day, causing accidents. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a truck accident, contact a personal injury attorney in your area to hold the at-fault trucker and trucking company accountable for the damage they have done.