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Could Change to ‘Hours-Of-Service’ Rules Lead to Truck Accidents?

Goldstein Heslop Steele Clapper Oswalt & Smith Dec. 10, 2021

A previous post on this blog talked about how the number of fatal truck accidents across the country have been on the rise of late. The post also discussed how, even in the face of these statistics, the federal government is now considering loosening the federal rest rules to allow what proponents call additional flexibility for truckers and the trucking industry in Pennsylvania and nationwide.

Those who favor the changes may often tell stories about how a driver had to stop and take a 10-hour break while less than 10 miles for home rather than risk the consequences of violating the rest rules.

However, others see these stories as outliers and suggest that even the current rest rules are not doing enough to prevent fatigued driving. Indeed, the National Transportation Safety Board has called driver fatigue a problem that is pervasive within the trucking industry and has listed it as among the most pressing safety issues on the road. Other statistics suggest that well over 10% of truck accidents are related in some way to driver fatigue.

Those who fall in line with the current administration in favoring the changes argue that they are not asking for much. For instance, they want to roll back the mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours of driving. In lieu of requiring a 10-hour rest after 14 hours on duty, proponents also want to give truckers the option of taking three consecutive hours of rest in the middle of their duty time.

The final version of these proposed rules has yet to be unveiled, and the Administration may find them hard to implement. In any event, though, fatigued truck drivers who cause accidents in Pennsylvania can still be held accountable for the injuries of their victims.