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FMCSA moves to relax hours of service regulations

Truck drivers in Tennessee and around the country could work shifts as long as 17 hours if recently proposed revisions to federal hours of service regulations are implemented. The current rules limit truck driver shifts to 14 hours. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says the revisions will make the nation's roads safer, but several advocacy groups including Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition oppose them.

The maximum amount of time that truck drivers can spend behind the wheel during their shifts would remain 11 hours under the proposed hours of service revisions. The new rules extend the maximum truck driver shift because they do not count the time truckers wait to load or unload cargo and allow extra time to account for unexpected traffic congestion or adverse weather conditions. The revisions would also require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving instead of eight hours of being on duty.

Advocacy groups say truck driver fatigue is a major problem and hours of service regulations should be strengthened rather than relaxed. Figures from the FMCSA reveal that 4,455 semi-tractor trailers were involved in fatal truck accidents in 2017. This is the highest number of deadly truck crashes in a decade. The number of deadly truck accidents per million miles traveled in 2017 was also the highest since 2007.

Experienced big rig accident attorneys may scrutinize electronic hours of service logs carefully when fatigue may have contributed to a truck crash. They could also seek to obtain the electronic information stored on semi-tractor trailer data recorders. This electronic evidence could also be used to support arguments of distraction or fatigue if it reveals that truck drivers did not attempt to avoid a collision by applying their brakes or taking evasive action.

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