We’ve talked a lot about the dangers of truck driver fatigue in the past. Sleepy drivers continue to cause nearly as many collisions as drunk drivers in New Jersey and beyond, and yet the problem doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as DUI.
Driver fatigue is especially concerning when it comes to commercial truck drivers — not only because their vehicles are so big and dangerous but also because these hardworking employees already log so many long hours on the road as it is.
You might be shocked, then, to learn that federal government has just loosened the regulations on sleepy truck drivers nationwide.
How the U.S. Senate Quietly Changed the Rules for Truck Driver Fatigue
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, who represents Maine on Capitol Hill, successfully attached a “rider” (a law that gets tacked to a larger piece of legislation) to an unrelated Senate spending bill last month — a rider that significantly relaxed the rules governing truck driver safety in America.
Notably, the last time Senator Collins attempted to roll back those rules, it was just days before superstar comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in a critical New Jersey trucking accident. Reportedly, the trucker in that case had not slept for more than 24 hours.
The New Rules for Truck Driver Fatigue in New Jersey & Beyond
Previously, truck drivers had to take a 34-hour rest break after working for 70 hours over eight days. Those 34 hours had to include two consecutive nights, from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Now, drivers are still limited to 14 hours of work per day, and only 11 of those can be spent behind the wheel. They must still take at least one half-hour break during each 11-hour shift. And they must still take a 34-hour break at the end of a workweek.
So what’s changing? That rule about resting for two consecutive nights — each spanning from at least 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. — is now kaput. When you do the math, that means that truckers could now conceivably work for 82 hours in the same week, most of it spent driving on the same roads that the rest of us use every day.
Collins and her supporters point out that the newest set of rules will give truckers the flexibility to spend more time driving overnight, when the roads are less crowded and theoretically safer.
Then again, drivers may be more likely to drift to sleep during those overnight hours too.
Most driving safety advocates have condemned the Collins measure. In fact, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote to Congress directly. “I am seriously concerned that this suspension will put lives at risk,” he wrote. And he isn’t alone, according to Bloomberg.
Certainly, Collins’ efforts mark a reversal of the fifteen-year-long effort to reduce the threat of driver fatigue.
A Law Firm for New Jersey Truck Accident Victims
At The Law Offices of James C. DeZao, P.A., we care about the safety of New Jersey’s roadways. Let us know what you think about this sudden change in federal law, and feel free to share this article with your family and friends.
However you feel about the rule, we hope you’ll do all you can stay safe and alert while driving.