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Almost a year later, trucking industry reflects on new rules

Anyone who has ever taken a long road trip knows that at a certain point, the body and mind just can't stay awake any longer. With summer just beginning, many in Northern Virginia are likely preparing for their seasonal trips, planning itineraries and places to stop along the way. Traveling on highways and interstates means sharing the road with trucks, which is why it's extra important to leave adequate time for rest. A drowsy driver, either behind the wheel of a passenger car or a semi truck, can easily cause a car or truck crash.

While those who travel for leisure can set their own schedules, truck drivers are held to a different standard. Last summer, new regulations went into effect to address the dangerous issue of truck driver fatigue. Prior to last July, the maximum hours per week a truck driver could work was 82. That number dropped to 70 thanks to the new rule, which also requires a half-hour break during a shift's first eight hours. Finally, the new rules also strengthened an existing regulation that mandates a break period of 34 hours between weeks of work. Now, that break needs to include two consecutive periods in the early morning hours.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the new rules have produced safety benefits. A study by the FMCSA pointed to a decrease in truck driver fatigue. The FMCSA study concluded that the benefits outweigh the costs. The FMCSA has noted that the new hours of service requirements were instituted not only to boost safety, but also to protect the health of the truck drivers themselves.

However, not everyone is pleased with the new rules. Some trucking companies have had to adjust delivery schedules and raise rates. Still, other companies, such as Landstar, have seen their freight volumes rise due to the new rules. Truck drivers looking for a job may continue to benefit from the new rules, as some carriers seek to hire more workers in light of the changes.

While these new rules have produced many safety benefits, accidents do occur. If an individual is injured due to the negligence of a tired truck driver, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. Those who are hurt should ensure their legal rights are protected at all times.

Source: USA Today, "Limits on truck drivers' hours roil industry," Paul Davidson, May 18, 2014

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