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New federal spending bill eases regulations for truck drivers

Northern Virginia commuters are often a bit drowsy in the early morning hours; unfortunately, the combination of many different vehicles clogging area roadways can result in backups, minor accidents or major collisions. For those whose jobs put them behind the wheel all day or night, drowsiness can be deadly.

In order to combat truck driver fatigue, federal trucking regulations have evolved over the years to set stringent guidelines as to how much rest drivers must get. In July of 2013, lawmakers mandated that those who drive certain commercial vehicles, particularly large semi-trucks, must take a break of at least 34 hours every seven days, if the driver averages 70 hours of driving per week. The rule included a requirement that the 34-hour rest period include a pair of overnight periods between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

Recently, however, a federal spending bill signed into law by President Obama earlier this month included language that has eased these restrictions on truckers' rest periods. Under the new bill, drivers no longer have to use their rest periods during the specific overnight hours featured in the July 2013 legislation. Some in the trucking industry argue that the easing of the restriction will make roadways less congested and the industry more efficient.

Safety advocates, though, argue that roadway safety is likely to be jeopardized by the change. According to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, truck accidents cost nearly $100 billion in damages every year. Truck crashes result in 4,000 deaths and over 100,000 injuries on an annual basis.

With the older, less-restrictive trucking industry restart rule in place, there may be more drowsy truckers on Virginia's roads. Those who find themselves the victim of a truck accident may wish to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney, who can help determine if negligence in the form of truck driver fatigue caused the collision.

Source: The Trucker, "Trucking industry awakes to less-restrictive restart rule," Lyndon Finney, Dec. 17, 2014

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