Pennsylvania motorists may not know that truck accidents around the country claimed 4,761 lives in 2017 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and some observers are saying that federal hours of service rules could be partly responsible. The regulations were put into place to prevent truck drivers from remaining behind the wheel while dangerously fatigued, but some trade groups claim that they encourage speeding and recklessness.
Commercial vehicle accident statistics continue to make grim reading. The 2017 death toll is the highest in almost three decades, and almost three-quarters of the people killed in commercial vehicle crashes were passenger vehicle occupants. A growing number of logistics industry figures claim that relaxing hours of service regulations would save lives, and they are particularly concerned about a rule that requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving.
They say that many truck drivers exceed posted speed limits and drive negligently in order to complete their journeys before the mandatory break, but these claims are not supported by federal crash statistics. According to NHTSA, the number of fatal truck accidents caused by excessive speed has actually fallen in recent years. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has not announced any plans to revise its hours of service rules, the agency is currently said to be reviewing more than 5,000 suggestions received from industry groups, road safety advocates and members of the public.
Accident investigators scrutinize hours of service records when truck accidents may have been caused by fatigue, and their findings could be used to support arguments made by personal injury attorneys in lawsuits against negligent truck drivers or trucking companies. Truck drivers may be held accountable in civil court when they ignored federal rules in order to finish their shifts more quickly, and their employers could face litigation if they encouraged the skirting of safety regulations or turned a blind eye to repeated violations.