Attorney and nationally renowned truck crash expert, Jeff Burns, was recently interviewed for Vox about the federal government’s rollback of several truck safety regulations to help move needed supplies quicker during the coronavirus pandemic. One of the major regulations the government changed was allowing truckers more hours of drive time before resting.
Driver fatigue has long been one of the leading causes of truck crash accidents. In 2018 alone, 5,000 people lost their lives in such accidents. This number has risen steadily each year since 2009. Prior to the updated ruling, drivers could have 11 hours of driving time within a 14-hour on-duty window. They must have had 10 consecutive hours off duty before the on-duty clock starts anew. And a driver who is going to be driving for more than eight hours must take a 30-minute break before hitting the eight-hour mark
Due to the increased demand of medical equipment as well as food during the coronavirus, the current federal administration lengthened this by two hours and considered any time truckers were off-loading goods as rest time. These two measures have long been fought against by our firm as well as national truck safety groups such as Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and National Highway Truck Safety Administration.
The federal government’s deregulation has been extended three times already and is set to expire on July 14. Many believe it will continue to be extended. Safety advocates argue this regulation rollback is about more than helping during a crisis. It is about putting profit ahead of safety, and doing away with several safety measures that cost trucking companies billions of dollars each year. The trucking lobby has long since fought to do away with hour restrictions for truck drivers.
Burns was quoted throughout the article, and shared his experience from his first truck crash case. From the article,
Burns still remembers the first truck crash he worked on, nearly 30 years ago. A 6-year-old girl — about the same age as his daughter at the time — was killed. He took the driver’s deposition and asked him: Why didn’t you sleep? Why were you in such a rush?
The driver replied: “Money. If the wheels aren’t turnin’, nobody’s earnin.’”
“That’s a mantra within the trucking industry,” Burns said. “That scared the hell out of me. It scares the hell out of me still.”
These regulations are greatly needed to help ensure the safety of our roadways. The Vox article highlights one family whose world will never be the same after a fatal truck crash in March that occurred right after the regulations were changed. We need drivers to properly rest and not feel the burden of keeping the wheels turning. Safety is more important than profits.