A recent tractor-trailer crash quite literally created a fowl mess on I-20 in Louisiana when the 64-year-old driver, hailing from a North Carolina trucking company, overturned his rig, spilling some 30,000 pounds of frozen chicken meat all over the highway.
The scene took hours to clear, but our Asheville trucking accident lawyers are thankful that no one was killed or seriously injured. The driver was later cited for careless operation.
We can't say whether driver fatigue contributed to this particular crash, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration attributes drowsiness as the primary cause of 13 percent of commercial trucking accidents nationwide. In an effort to combat this problem, the agency has introduced a new set of mandatory rules regarding hours of service for truckers and other commercial drivers, set to go into effect July 1.
The rules have been met with fierce backlash from the trucking industry, which has filed lawsuits, testified before Congress and made extensive complaints to national media outlets. It's been nearly five years since the FMCSA first introduced the rules, and after a fair amount of tweaking in response to the opposition, the rules are slated to be enacted without further delay.
The American Trucking Associations, which represents some 2,000 member companies, say the current rules have been sufficient in reducing the number of commercial trucking crashes. However, we continue to see these crashes every day, so more clearly needs to be done.
Some estimate implementation of the new rules will cost the industry about $320 million. However, the FMCSA estimates the implementation costs will be about $200 per trucker, and that there will be a $270 annual loss of income per trucker in terms of lost hours.
What we all gain are safer roadways.
Consider that in 2010, more than 500,000 large trucks and commercial vehicles were involved in wrecks. In those instances, more than 100,000 people sustained serious injuries and more than 5,000 died. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, that was a significant increase compared to 2009, when 3,200 deaths were reported in large trucking accidents.
To us, the new rules make sense. Among them:
- Truck drivers will be limited to 11 hours of drive time, following 10 hours of consecutive off-duty time, provided they take a 30-minute break every 8 hours.
- Drivers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver will be allowed to restart a 7/8 consecutive day period at any point during the week, provided he or she take at least a 34 straight hours off duty.
- Drivers using the sleeper berth to catch up on their sleep on the road have to remain in that cabin for at least 8 consecutive hours.