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Are mandatory rest breaks contributing to trucking accidents?

Motorists of all types of vehicles generally know that a fatigued driver is a dangerous driver. This danger is more pronounced when it comes to semi-trucks. Though they are a vital and necessary tool for our economy, their larger size means that cars involved in trucking accidents sustain greater damage, and people in those accidents suffer more serious injuries.

To address this issue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented rules that dictated when and how often truck drivers should take rest breaks. It hoped that the truck drivers would get adequate rest and that the rates of trucking accidents would drop. However, the FMCSA is now attempting to determine if these regulations are actually contributing to more fatal accidents.

Fatal trucking accidents going up, not down

Though the percentage of people dying in motor vehicle crashes dropped slightly in 2017, the number of fatalities involving semi-trucks rose by 9%. A huge majority of those fatalities were people in other vehicles that were not semi-trucks. 2017 had one of the highest percentages of fatal trucking accidents.

Some experts say that the new federal rule that mandates a rest break after driving for eight hours is to blame for this rise. One representative for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says that some truck drivers feel pressured to drive faster in order to cover more ground before the mandatory rest break kicks in. Some drivers even admit that they are speeding to make their goals.

FMCSA gets input from truckers

The good news is that the FMCSA is working with truck drivers to determine what rules make sense and which ones don’t. One driver thinks that the forced 30-minute break actually impedes his energy for driving. He prefers to drive the maximum 11 hours in a 14-hour period before stopping, saying that taking the break makes him sleepy.

Other truck drivers say that an increase of distracted driving and other poor driving habits, particularly among younger drivers, is to blame. One driver even said he decided to retire after seeing too many examples of dangerous truck driving on the road. Drivers also want to see more rest areas available for truckers, which they say decreases driver fatigue.

Everyone is responsible

The FMCSA readily admits that speeding is the leading cause of fatalities in trucking accidents. They report that the number of truck drivers that receive speeding citations is going up. Some are optimistic about the potentially beneficial effects of on-board technology that can monitor truck drivers and their behavior.

The American Trucking Association claims that other vehicles cause almost two-thirds of accidents with big rigs. However, the fact remains that many truck drivers are not operating their vehicles safely, and that can spell disaster for Florida motorists who get into a crash with them. Those hurt in trucking accidents may suffer for the rest of their lives, and it is important to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.