Senate committee votes to suspend truck-driver fatigue rule

Recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to suspend the current 34-hour restart provision that governs truck drivers - a provision that was originally created to help reduced highway fatalities by lessening trucker fatigue.

Specifically, the restart provision, which went into effect last summer, dictates that truck drivers must take at least 34 hours off after they reach their weekly driving limits. Importantly, this 34-hour break must include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on consecutive days.

Supporters of the proposed rule suspension, including many trucking companies, claim that the rule was originally enacted without proper research and that it is inadvertently forcing more trucks on the roads during rush hour, which may be a safety concern. However, proponents of the current restart provision note that it does not force drivers on the road during rush hour as they can still set their own schedule, not to mention that the rule was created only after an extensive examination of medical research on human fatigue.

Although the proposed amendment to the 34-hour restart provision still has a long way to go before it becomes effective, if ultimately passed, it would suspend the current rule while additional government studies are conducted. This suspension period would last until September 30, 2015, or until the studies are finished. During this time, the old, and significantly less restrictive, restart provision would be in effect.

Potential impact of rule suspension

Suspending the 34-restrart provision may put many more motorists at risk of being involved in a serious trucking accident, particularly those traveling along major roadways such as I-95 in North Carolina. Indeed, according to government estimates, the hours-of-service regulation that went into effect last summer may actually prevent as many as 1,400 trucking accidents and save 19 lives annually on our nation's highways, so any suspension will likely make the roads less safe, not more.

Moreover, given the dangerous nature of truck-related accidents, a victim may suffer many severe injuries if involved in such a collision, including:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Back and spinal injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Lacerations or amputations

Fortunately, victims of trucking accidents may have legal remedies available to help them recover damages for lost wages and medical expenses. However, it is often best to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney if you wish to learn how to pursue these potential damages. A knowledgeable attorney can help explain your rights and walk you through the entire process.