Truck drivers in Virginia and other states may soon have fewer limitations when it comes to their hours behind the wheel. The Department of Transportation (DOT) is moving forward with plans to relax regulations on how many hours truckers can work per shift. While the trucking industry has been pushing for fewer restrictions on hours, safety advocates are concerned about driver fatigue and similar issues that could put other motorists at risk.
Existing regulations involving commercial vehicles limit long-haul drivers to 11 hours on the road within a 14-hour on-duty period. Additionally, drivers are required to have 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time before on-duty time officially begins again. Plus, drivers planning to clock more than eight hours are required to take a 30-minute break when they hit the eight-hour mark. Violations could result in a driver being listed as out of service for one or more days.
Concerns about the possible relaxation of driver hours' regulations stem from stats showing that fatal motor vehicle crashes involving larger trucks have been on the rise. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than 4,000 large trucks were involved in fatal collisions in 2017. That same year also saw 300,000-plus nonfatal crashes that resulted in injuries, a 10% increase from the year prior. Also, 60% of truck drivers involved in fatal accidents were identified as being fatigued or asleep at the time of the incident. Most crashes occur between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Should personal injuries result as the result of a truck collision, a lawyer who specializes in motor vehicle accidents typically attempts to identify contributing factors. This process may involve reviewing a driver's logged hours to look for violations. A case might also be based on evidence suggesting fatigue or impairment, such as witness accounts of erratic driving prior to the accident. Smartphone records may also be checked.