Earlier this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a long-awaited ruling concerning safety practices by commercial truck drivers, specifically the logging of hours while behind the wheel.
The rule, which was put in place to help strengthen the enforcement of such regulations, is aimed at better preventing driver fatigue, one of the leading causes of trucking accidents.
In the wake of the ruling, Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox affirmed the FMCSA’s commitment to driver safety, noting that the technology will propel trucking records into the modern age, while also allowing safety inspectors to uncover violations of federal law that continue to put drivers and others at risk
Commercial Trucking Regulations
Though there are a number of safety standards regulating the commercial trucking industry, the logging of hours dates back to the early days of the trucking business. The practice began officially in 1938, but had been criticized by regulators and other industry personnel, citing the ease and ability to manipulate the logs in order to evade penalties or restrictions.
And for an industry that has seen truck accidents – such as those involving commercial vehicles, 18-wheelers, semi trucks or other delivery vehicles – escalate by more than 20 percent over the last two decades, such restrictions matter greatly. Especially in markets like Texas, New Mexico, and the greater Southwest region, a transport hub for commercial trucking.
As a result, there have been a number of federal laws and regulations put in place over the last few decades that help to establish standards that commercial organizations must meet in order to alleviate the risk of significant accidents and injury. These standards are specifically geared towards negligence and negligent behavior, a driving force in many tragic trucking accidents, including:
- Driver fatigue
- Driver overwork
- Improper truck maintenance
- Distracted driving
- Reckless driving (i.e. speeding)
Additionally, current federal law states that any organization that owns a trucking permit can be held responsible for any accident involving a truck that is displaying its name or placard.
Pressures on Commercial Truckers
While the vast majority of professional truckers operating on roadways today are responsible, law-abiding drivers, the fact remains that they, as humans, have limits. Unfortunately, these limits can often tested by employers looking to meet deadlines or elevate productivity marks. Some of the greatest pressures that drivers can face are those affect the company bottom line.
The most prominent pressure commercial truckers deal with is fatigue, which continues to cause serious accidents and injury across the country. According to recent estimates from the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 4,000 people die in large truck accidents each year, most of which are caused by driver fatigue.
Additional research has also pointed to long work hours, insufficient recovery times and reduced sleep as key areas of concern for commercial drivers, which can lead to chronic fatigue issues.
Because recent federal regulations have targeted the hours of service rules for commercial drivers, many companies are experiencing reduced hour allotments, despite needing to haul the same (if not additional) amounts of cargo.
That means an elevated cost for trucking organizations, and tighter deadlines for those behind the wheel. Although recent rulings have outlined strict break or “restart” requirements, many organizations continue to operate at maximum hours allowed, which can sometimes approach 70 plus hours per week.
What does this mean for those operating these large, 18-wheeler or semi trucks?
It means slower reaction times and a reduced ability to assess and respond to dangers on the roadway. It can also be very difficult for truck drivers to recognize their performance has been compromised due to fatigue, and they may not realize that they are drifting into surrounding traffic, creating serious risk for fellow drivers and passengers.
That is, unfortunately, when accidents happen.
Been Injured in a Truck Accident?
Due to the sheer size of these vehicles, accidents involving large commercial trucks can be particularly severe, in both damage done and injuries suffered. Unfortunately, many trucking accidents involve serious personal injury, such as head or spinal trauma, or can even be fatal. Those dealing with personal injury may experience any number of challenges, including loss of wages, temporary or permanent disability and mounting medical expenses.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck or tractor-trailer, it is important that you reach out to a qualified attorney as soon as possible, as you may be eligible to file a personal injury claim.
Personal Injury Attorneys in Texas or New Mexico
If you reside in the El Paso, Texas area, or if you are in parts of New Mexico, the personal injury attorneys at Gilstrap & Associates, P.C. can assist you in your recovery. For more than 20 years, our firm has successfully helped victims of personal injury, including those due to trucking accidents, and we are prepared to do the same for you and your family today.
From working with you to conduct thorough investigations to assisting clients in receiving the best medical care, our legal team is prepared to stand with you every step of the way.
Let us help you protect the future for you and your loved ones. To schedule a complimentary no-obligation consultation with a member of our team to assess your case, call the attorneys at Gilstrap & Associates P.C. at (915) 581-0020.