Commercial vehicle accident fatalities throughout South Carolina and the rest of the country have reached levels not seen in 29 years, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some truck drivers and trucking industry groups say that federal hours of service regulations are at least partly to blame for the surge. The rules limit the amount of time that truck drivers can spend behind the wheel, but a growing number of industry voices say that this encourages reckless driving and causes deadly crashes.
Traffic accident deaths fell by 2 percent in 2017 after increasing alarmingly for two consecutive years. However, the number of road users killed in tractor-trailer crashes that year rose by a worrying 9 percent to 4,761. Federal hours of service rules require truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest after spending eight hours on the road. Critics of the regulations say it is the desire to complete shifts before this mandatory break that is leading commercial vehicle drivers to exceed posted speed limits and drive dangerously.
However, these claims do not appear to be supported by federal truck accident statistics. While the number of people killed in tractor-trailer crashes has risen sharply in recent years, fatal truck accidents caused by excessive speed are actually becoming less common. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has not announced any plans to modify its hours of service rules, but it is reviewing more than 5,000 comments on the HOS rules by industry groups, truck drivers and members of the public.
Hours of service logs and information stored on the black-box-type devices fitted to modern tractor-trailers can help accident investigators determine whether a commercial vehicle accident was caused by excessive speed or fatigue. This kind of evidence may also be useful to personal injury attorneys seeking compensation for those who suffered injury, loss or damage.