Truck accidents often result from the deadly combination of driver fatigue and tens of thousands of pounds of cargo moving at highway speeds. Because truck drivers, other motorists and passengers are extremely vulnerable to traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and broken bones when involved in collisions with semis, federal laws closely regulate the working hours of interstate truckers.
Recent activity in Washington, D.C. indicates that truck safety prevention is on the minds of many legislators and safety advocates. Newly proposed legislation, the Safe Highways and Infrastructure Protection Act, would change provisions regarding the allowable length and weight of vehicles operating on the national highway system.
Meanwhile, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is finalizing new regulations to limit consecutive driving hours and require electronic on-board monitoring of a truck driver's time behind the wheel. Restructuring of the so-called "Hours of Service" rules is long overdue, given evidence of the clear connection between driver fatigue and truck crashes.
"The use of paper logbooks by truck drivers is like running a business with paper notebooks and no computers," said one law enforcement officer and trucking safety advocate at a recent Truck Safety Coalition news conference. Paper log books have long been known as "comic books" by America's truck drivers. Driver support of safer highways is evidenced by the Teamsters' recent endorsement of the tougher measures.
One important factor involving federal HOS regulations: if a driver exceeds those limits and subsequently gets into a truck accident, failure to abide by the rules can lead to legal liability for property damage, medical expenses or a tragic wrongful death.
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