Studies have shown that drowsy driving can be just as deadly as getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, and the peril is even greater when the vehicle involved is a semi-tractor trailer that weighs 40 tons. Road users in South Carolina and around the country are protected against this threat by hours of service regulations that are strictly enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. However, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association claims that these rules actually make the roads more dangerous.
The OOIDA has a particular issue with the FMCSA regulation that requires drivers to work shifts of no more than 14 hours before resting for at least 10 hours. While the trade group has no objection to the 10-hour rest between journeys, they have petitioned the FMCSA to allow drivers to break up the 14-hour maximum shift into segments by taking breaks of up to three hours. The clock keeps running when truck drivers take breaks under current hours of service rules, which the OOIDA says forces drivers to remain on the road even when they are dangerously fatigued.
The trade group says that the current regulations, which were introduced in 2013, also prevent truck drivers from planning their trips intelligently. They maintain that permitting long breaks would allow drivers to time their journeys to avoid traffic congestion and get off the road when weather conditions become treacherous. The OOIDA also wants the FMCSA to eliminate the rule that compels drivers to rest for 30 minutes during their first eight hours on duty.
Accident investigators study hours of service logbooks carefully when injuries or deaths could have been caused by fatigue. Experienced personal injury attorneys may use their conclusions to establish negligence in lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals who have sustained injury, loss or damage. While truck accident lawsuits are often filed against negligent tractor-trailer drivers, trucking companies could also face litigation if safety regulations, such as hours of service rules, have been ignored or enforced less than vigorously.