Mandatory Rest Break, Driver Fatigue and Safety

December 23, 2019 Truck Accident Blog

Truck Driver Fatigue Still Common Even With the Mandatory Rest Break

According to the Accident Analysis and Prevention study conducted in 2017, most truck accidents that involve driver fatigue happen only 20 miles from a truck stop or a rest area. This suggests that the current system for reducing driver fatigue, via the 30-minute mandatory rest break after eight hours of continuous driving, is ineffective at adequately addressing the problem.

Hours-of-Service Rules and the Mandatory Rest Break

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a rule that limits the number of hours truck drivers are allowed to operate their commercial vehicles. During an 11-hour period, the driver is required to take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving. The driver must also go off-duty after 14 hours of work, and this includes non-driving work.

However, this rule also fails to provide flexibility for drivers who are under enormous pressure to make their deadlines under other time constraints as well. For example, weather, traffic, construction, speed limits and other unforeseen events can cause delays during the normal course of the workday. During some deliveries, there are only a few of these conditions present, and most drivers see this as a normal part of their work routine. However, when all of the conditions are present simultaneously, the driver is more likely to become fatigued and stressed.

Delivery Times and High-Pressure Working Conditions

Whenever there are additional delays, the pressure to deliver on-time becomes amplified, and this can contribute to the risks of a fatal crash. For example, trucks that are forced to wait at the docks while being loaded can put drivers in a situation where they must drive all night to make an early morning delivery appointment. The weather conditions might be adverse, and there is often road construction late at night. If the driver is being paid per mile, the additional loss of time is experienced as a cut in the driver’s wages, and this compounds the sense of stress and anxiety.

Construction, traffic and other unforeseeable events can force the traffic to back up for miles in some cases. Accidents that happen on the highway often take hours to clear from the road. When these complications emerge, the truck driver’s available driving time diminishes. Instead of making up the miles when the time is available, the driver might be forced to take a 30-minute rest break. This could ultimately be a waste if the driver is already feeling the adrenaline of being under the gun to make the delivery appointment.

Car and Truck Collisions

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When there is a collision between a large truck and smaller passenger vehicle, many factors could be at play. Driver fatigue and the hours-of-service rules only account for a small portion of the variables that make up an accident. According to the chief executive of the American Trucking Association, around two-thirds of such accidents are caused by the passenger vehicle’s driver. This is because a large portion of car drivers fail to understand the amount of time it takes for a commercial truck to slow down when it’s operating at high speeds while carrying heavy freight.

The Mandatory Rest Break and Speeding Trucks

The maximum 30-minute rest period comes at exactly eight hours of driving, but it offers the driver no flexibility. This means that it could happen at any point in the shift, and this includes being stuck in a traffic jam. The lack of flexibility and control over the timing of the rest period causes drivers to experience even more anxiety (and thus fatigue) in some cases. For example, drivers are unable to take the rest break when it’s most suitable to their working style.

Many drivers prefer to take the break during a period when there isn’t any pressure to make the delivery. Instead, they’ll end up speeding to make up the lost miles and arrive on time. This creates additional hazards that put the safety of other road users at risk. It also places additional constraints on drivers who already feel powerless over the work conditions that leave them working under tight deadlines with a low margin for errors.

Unpaid Hours and Delivery Pressures

Drivers are often forced to wait at docks for hours while shippers and receivers take up valuable time loading and unloading. Under the new system, some of these trucks are unable to move even short distances without going into the on-duty status, which cannot be stopped. This creates an impossible situation for drivers who might be expected to move their trucks to another position after going off-duty. The lack of control causes serious problems once the driver begins operating the vehicle as well because of the double pressure of the delivery time and speed limit.

Additional Factors and Increasing Risks

All of these factors can be compounded by the addition of extreme weather events like rain or snow. If the roads are slippery, there is an even higher chance of losing control; however, the delivery window available to the driver never accounts for any external conditions. Additional obstacles may include weather, construction and even the angle of a hill. If a truck driver is going through an area with a steep grade in the road, the time it takes to deliver the same distance will be increased.

Truck drivers entering a new city are rarely familiar with the roads, and GPS systems can sometimes give faulty information. The time it takes to recover from taking a wrong turn adds to the pressure of delivering on time. In addition, many drivers experience unforeseen delays when they arrive at the customer’s location but were not informed about the procedure needed to enter the dock. In some cases, this involves routing the truck several blocks away and waiting in line to get a clearance pass. This additional delay can take up to several hours, and drivers quickly become frustrated because the amount of time available for operating during daylight hours gets lost.

Truck Driver Accident Lawyer

A variety of factors may contribute to a truck accident. It is the job of an experienced truck accident lawyer to find out what happened and look out for the best interests of the victim. Liability is often dispersed through multiple parties, and much of the question of blame has to do with the issue of control. When a driver is operating under conditions that preclude safe practices from being performed, the issue of liability might reside more heavily with the trucking company. In cases where the driver was negligent or reckless, though, the liability can be shared with the driver as well. Since the at-fault party will typically try to deflect blame, obtaining just compensation could be difficult for a plaintiff.

That’s why filing a claim requires the experience of a truck accident lawyer who understands the internal and external factors that go into play during a collision. The team at RAM Law knows how to fight for fair settlements. To set up a consultation, you can contact us through our website, or just give us a call. Call our New Brunswick office at (732) 247-3600 or our Somerville office at (908) 448-2560.

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