Every year there are thousands of traffic accidents involving tractor trailers, many of them fatal. Much study has gone into the how and why of fatal truck accidents to try to learn from them and reduce the frequency of these events. Trucking accident attorneys point out that an important factor in truck accidents is driver hours, specifically how much rest truck drivers get. Fatigue is recognize as one of the main contributors to fatal trucking accidents, although drivers say that the 34-hour restart rule is to blame.
When Do More Trucking Accidents Occur?
According to crash studies done by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), most serious accidents involving big trucks happen during the day between the hours of 6 AM and 7 PM. Statistically, 51 percent of all fatal truck accidents occur between 6 AM and 3 PM. During this same time period, only 30 percent of crashes involving cars and no trucks occur. This is also the time period when all traffic, trucks and cars alike, is at its highest; so this statistic does make sense.
On the other hand, most fatal accidents involving cars only happen outside of those hours; trucks driving outside of those hours have a much lower rate of accidents and in fact, only 16 percent of fatal accidents involving trucks occur on the weekend. Basically, this means that truck accidents are more likely to happen during the day during the week because of higher traffic volume.
Do Driver Regulations Contribute to This?
Truck driver hours on the clock are carefully monitored as a way to ensure that drivers are not working too many hours without getting enough sleep. There are regulations about how many hours in a day a trucker can drive, as well as how many days in a row a trucker can drive without taking required time off. Although there are a few arguments about the driver hours and how they are counted, the biggest argument that comes from truck drivers is regarding the “34-hour restart rule.”
The 34-hour restart rule states that drivers must adhere to the previously mentioned restrictions and also rest for 34 consecutive hours that include two periods between 1 AM and 5 AM. While the rest itself is not the issue and drivers are not actually arguing against the need for rest, they do object to the way the 34-hour rule cuts into the work week. Those opposing this rule state that it essentially forces drivers to start off their driving week at 6 AM after their 24-hour break, putting them on a daytime schedule right along with all other traffic.
Reducing Fatal Truck Accidents
Truck drivers opposed to the 34-hour rule argue that forcing drivers to be on the road with the worst traffic is counterproductive to the reason for the rule, which is to prevent truck accidents. They argue that many drivers prefer being on the roads overnight, when there is much less traffic and driving is less stressful and much less dangerous. Such action is prevented in many case by the 34-hour restart rule. Considering the fact that most fatal truck accidents occur during normal rush hour traffic time, there may be a very valid point here. As a result, Congress has temporarily suspended the 34-hour restart rule pending more research.
Until a decision is made about the 34-hour restart rule, it will be interesting to see if the number of fatal truck accidents goes down. In either case, as trucking accident attorneys can attest, the crash data does prove that the number of serious and fatal trucking accidents increases dramatically when there is more traffic on the roads.
Pearland, Pasadena, Webster, League City, Webster, Manvel, Alvin, Friendswood, La Marque, Texas City, and Galveston
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 408-2190