Truckers’ Driving Hours Change Leaves Motorists At Risk

Illinois has seen its share of truck accidents, and residents have a right to expect legislation that makes the roadways safer. According to Illinois Crash Data, there were more than 2,500 injury collisions involving commercial trucks in the state during 2011 alone. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration outlined a bill passed in December of 2011 that required truck drivers to take two back-to-back nights off after every 70-hour work period on the road. These breaks had to be a minimum of four hours and include the time between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

When the bill took effect July 1, 2013, tractor trailer operators were no longer able to work more than 70 hours in a workweek, as Chicago personal injury attorneys may well know. Lawmakers anticipated lowering the number of truck accidents by as many as 1,400 per year, preventing 19 deaths and 560 injuries. However, before the results could be measured, a revision of the law was passed as a piece of the recent U.S. government budget legislation.

Opposition to regulations

Chicago personal injury attorneys are typically aware that truck driver fatigue is not a new issue. Most drivers are paid by the mile, and every minute spent stuck in traffic lowers the amount a driver can earn for the day. Many may be tempted to adjust logbooks so that they can make up the time at the end of the day, even after they have spent their allotted 11 hours on the road.

Trucking companies and their supporters opposed the original law, claiming that it created more problems without effectively addressing the underlying causes of truck accidents caused by driver fatigue. By limiting nighttime driving, they alleged, trucks were forced to take to the road during busy morning hours, increasing traffic and raising risks. They also argued that it forced drivers to take inconvenient breaks that could cause them to get less sleep while interrupting the flexibility their schedules required.

The effects of fatigue

NPR states that there is a provision included that requires a detailed study of how the regulations affected tractor trailer accidents during the year-and-a-half they were in effect. The results may reflect a significantly lower number of accidents if they are consistent with a study published by the Journal of Sleep Research. According to that article, driving in the dark for three hours affects performance levels in the same way as a blood alcohol content of .08 percent. Drivers who spend more time on the road at night may create more hazards due to delayed reaction time and poor decision making associated with drunk driving.

The law will not be considered again until October of 2015. Anyone injured in a crash involving a tractor trailer may have legal recourse. Chicago personal injury attorneys may be able to provide assistance in acquiring compensation for medical expenses, loss of quality of life and pain and suffering.