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Hours of service rules blamed for rise in truck accident deaths

The number of road users killed in motor vehicle accidents involving large trucks in Tennessee and around the country rose by a worrying 9 percent to 4,761 in 2017 according to figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is the highest commercial vehicle accident death toll in almost three decades, and a number of logistics industry groups say that federal hours of service regulations are partly to blame.

Hours of service rules are designed to prevent accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers, but opponents of the regulations say that they make the roads more dangerous when semi drivers drive recklessly and exceed posted speed limits to work around the regulations. The rules require truck drivers to end their shifts after 11 hours and take a 30-minute rest after eight hours on the road, and it is the mandatory rest that industry groups say is causing the most problems.

Those calling for the rules to be revised say that truck drivers are getting into accidents because they are driving too fast in order to complete their journeys before rest becomes mandatory, but these claims are not borne out by federal crash data. NHTSA figures reveal that the number of deadly truck crashes caused by excessive speed is actually falling despite an overall rise in commercial vehicle accident fatalities.

Virtually all modern tractor trailers have electronic devices that monitor speed and driver behavior, and the data stored on them might be used by experienced personal injury attorneys to convince juries that the defendants in motor vehicle accident lawsuits acted negligently. Attorneys may also check hours of service logs and police accident reports for evidence to establish fatigue, impairment or recklessness.

Source: Trucks.com, More Trucking Deaths May Be Caused by Drivers Racing the Clock, Alan Adler, Oct. 31, 2018

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