Four highway safety groups, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Public Citizen, are all concerned about the amount of hours that truck drivers are allowed to drive. Their biggest concern is that government has actually lengthened the number of hours that big rig operators can drive per day and per week, rather than reduced them.
In a bill passed in 2003 and modified in 2005, 18-wheeler drivers are allowed to drive 11 consecutive hours, up from the 10-hour maximum established since 1939. Stats released by the four groups show that deaths in big rig accidents increased 3.1% in 2004 over 2003.
Every year, more than 5,000 people are killed and about 100,000 people are injured. “In the last ten years, 56,935 people have died and a million more were injured in truck crashes in communities across the country„” said Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “American families are paying a steep personal and financial price for this public health disaster. Truck deaths are increasing, government safety goals are ignored and enforcement of safety rules is suspended while special trucking interests continue to push a dangerous agenda in Congress. It’s time to stop coddling the trucking industry and make the safety of all motorists, including truck drivers, a priority.”
Fatigue has long been known to be a factor in a large number of accidents. According to the safety groups, studies have shown that after just eight hours of driving, concentration is impaired. Lack of sleep can also impair concentration (and in some jurisdictions can constitute impaired driving under the law) and can lead to drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Both scenarios can and do result in horrific accidents with deadly results. But rather than try to decrease the risk by decreasing maximum hours, Congress has allowed drivers to stay on the road even longer.
Not only is the number of consecutive hours increased, but the truck driver schedule, or “day,” is only 21 hours instead of 24. This means that drivers can add an extra 17–18 hours to their workweek, and 70 hours over the course of the month — theoretically all of these extra hours could be considered “impaired” due to lack of sleep and concentration.
“Large trucks are rolling time bombs on our highways, with tired truckers allowed to work 14 and 16 hours a day under the new DOT rules,” Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a large truck, call The Keener Law Firm for a free confidential consultation at 770–955-3000.