The federal transportation safety investigators revealed that a Wal-Mart truck driver was speeding immediately prior to careening into a limousine, killing a man and seriously injuring Tracy Morgan, the famous comedian.
This incident highlights the difficult balance between allowing truckers to work long hours and how doing so impacts the safety and health of the trucker as well as other motorists.
The driver had been on the job for approximately 13 1/2 hours at the time of the crash. The law on the books only allows a truck driver to work a maximum of 14 hours in a day and only 11 hours behind the wheel.
Had the driver reached his intended destination, he would have been slightly over the 14-hour limit (presuming he would have been going the speed limit).
Currently, the Senate is considering passing a resolution that would expand the maximum work period for truck drivers to 80 hours per week.
However, as a result of this tragic incident, the Teamsters Union pushed Congress not to ease the laws limiting truck drivers from working 60-70 hours per week.
The President of the Teamsters, James P. Hoffa, noted, “The NTSB’s preliminary findings in this case clearly show that truck drivers are pushing beyond the limits of the current hours of service rules.”
Apparently, the driver had not slept in 24 hours before the crash.
No one can tell whether the Senate resolution will pass, let alone become law. However, one thing is for sure: as this nationwide debate rages on, it is crucial for you to remember the importance of driving safely and the frightening ramifications of failing to do so.
Remember, a truck driver is a CDL (commercial driver’s license) holder and the penalties are dire for speeding when you have a CDL. Do not let fatigue or very long hours lead to a speeding ticket or a suspended license.
Recently, new regulations overhauled the rules governing truck-driving hours. They shorten the workweek, limit how many nights a truck driver can be on the road, and require truckers to take a certain amount of rest breaks during the day.
The Obama administration believes that these regulations will reduce crashes from sleep-deprived CDL drivers getting behind the wheel. The new regulations would cap a truck driver’s average workweek at 70 hours, a 12 hour decrease from the previous maximum limit of 82.
Many CDL drivers and trucking companies have not been pleased by these new rules. They contend that this is going to cost them serious money.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to enforce the regulations by routinely checking work logs, which CDL drivers are required to keep.
Failure to comply with the new rules could result in fines of up to $11,000 for companies and $2,750 for individual CDL drivers per offense.
One trucker who has been driving a big rig all his life remarked, “It’s hard … they have no clue what they’re doing.” He noted that the new rules will hurt him and do not help him because he will be losing out on 12 hours worth of pay per week.
However, the Transportation Department says 3,887 people were killed in 2012 in crashes involving large trucks and one study revealed that roughly 13% of large-truck crashes involve a sleep-deprived driver.
Although truck-crash fatality numbers have been trending down over the past decade due to new technologies, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) explained that fatigue-related crashes are still far too prevalent. These newest rules aim to reduce crashes while minimizing the impact on the industry.
With mounting criticism about the reduction in income looming in the background, Anne Ferro, chief of the FMCSA said, “My mission is to save lives.”
Despite all of the concern from CDL drivers, the government noted that only 15% of the nation’s 1.55 million long-haul truckers would be affected since most do not have routes that require such long hours and unionized truckers already have a shorter workweek.
A Commercial Driver License (CDL) is required by New York State to drive a vehicle weighing over 26,000 pounds, vehicles accommodating 15 or more passengers, including buses, and any vehicle used to transport hazardous material.