Trade group petitions for hours of service reforms

Truck drivers in California and around the country are not permitted to remain behind the wheel after being on duty for 14 hours under current hours of service regulations. However, some trade groups say that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's rules actually encourage drowsy driving and place other road users in danger. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is one such group, and they have petitioned the FMCSA to allow drivers to reset their 14-hour clocks by taking breaks of up to three hours.

The OOIDA says that truck drivers may remain on the road even when they become dangerously tired under the current hours of service rules because they want to cover as much distance as possible before their 14 hours are up. The group also claims that the 14-hour rule prevents drivers from planning their journeys and breaking them up to avoid congested rush hours and inclement weather.

The trade group also wants the FMCSA to do away with the rule that requires tractor-trailer drivers to rest for 30 minutes during the first eight hours of their shifts. Instead, the OOIDA has asked the FMCSA to allow drivers to break up their trips by resting for as long as three hours. Their 14-hour clocks would then restart at the end of these longer rest periods. However, the group has not asked the FMCSA to scrap the rule that requires periods of at least 10 hours between shifts.

When truck accidents are caused by fatigue, experienced personal injury attorneys will generally seek compensation for those who have suffered injury, loss or damage by filing lawsuits against truck drivers who may have flouted hours of service regulations. However, lawyers could also initiate litigation against the drivers' employers if such behavior was encouraged in order to meet deadlines or past hours of service violations went unpunished.

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