Holiday Travel and Trucker Fatigue Can be Disastrous Mix

A new report from the AAA Carolinas reports that a record 2.8 million North Carolina travelers will be traveling at least 50 miles from home for the holidays.
In total, the number of travelers is expected to increase by 48,500 compared to last year, and 9 out of 10 are going to be driving.

Sharing those roads are going to be tired truckers, often rushing to meet end-of-year deadlines – sometimes with too much cargo and too little sleep.

Fortunately, we are expecting to see some decline in the number of North Carolina truck accident injuries, as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new hours of service guidelines went into full effect this past summer. Although the new hours of service rules were first announced in December 2011, trucking companies were given a full 18 months in which to become complaint.

This will be the first holiday travel season with the new rules in place.

The new law requires that truck companies limit their drivers’ work weeks to a maximum of 70 hours. Any more than that, federal regulators say, and truckers are at high risk for fatigue.

Federal officials say that 8 out of 10 trucking companies were already doing this prior to the passage of the rules, and that this will only truly impact those that implemented the most extreme driving schedules.

The agency reported that the long daily, weekly and overnight hours demanded of truckers put them at high risk for chronic fatigue. There is a direct correlation between chronic fatigue and a higher incident of accidents.

It’s been reported that these changes are expected to prevent some 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries and 19 deaths.

The previous maximum drive-time for truckers under the old rule was 82 hours. In addition to this reduction, the agency now requires that truckers take a half hour break at some point during the first eight hours of any given shift. No trucker should rack up more than 11 hours on the road during a 14-hour work day.

Companies that violate these terms face a fine of $11,000 per offense, while individual drivers face fines of up to $2,750 per offense.

We worry though that as this is the first year for the new rules and many companies are looking to fulfill end-of-the-year quotas, those limits will be tested. As such, it becomes imperative for all other drivers to use the utmost caution when sharing the road with these behemoths. The FMCSA recommends the following precautionary defensive driving actions when you encounter a large truck:

  • Don’t cut off a large truck. These vehicles take far longer to stop as compared to cars. If you force a large vehicle to stop suddenly, it could result in a serious crash.
  • Watch for the blind spots, also referred to as “No-Zones.” Truckers have blind spots in the front, back and sides of the vehicle, and if you can’t see the trucker in the mirror, he or she can’t see you.
  • Pay attention. Distracted drivers are often guilty of driving slowly in the passing lane, ignoring truck signals or brake lights and creating an emergency brake situation. These are incredibly dangerous.
  • Use extra caution around trucks making wide right turns. If you try to get in between the truck and the curb, you could get seriously hurt.

Contact our Charlotte personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
N.C. Year-end holiday travel increases to highest on record, Dec. 18, 2013, Press Release, AAA Carolinas

More Blog Entries:
Preventing Underride in Carolina Trucking Accidents, April 22, 2013, Rock Hill Injury Lawyer log

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