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Should federal trucking rules regulate drivers sleep?

On behalf of Noland Law Firm, LLC posted in truck accidents on Friday, August 28, 2015.

One of the more difficult tasks of the federal agencies that regulate the trucking industry is the creation of the rules that govern how much time truck drivers are allowed to spend behind the wheel. These regulations, known in the industry as the hours of service (HOS) regulations have been recently revised after decades of rancorous debate.

Even after clearing years of litigation, part of the regulations were placed on hold by the U.S. House of Representatives last year, when it inserted a provision in an appropriations bill that stopped enforcement and instructed the Department of Transportation to further study the provision.

The primary purpose of the HOS regulations is to ensure that truck drivers are well rested and not driving fatigued on the road. This is difficult, as the Tracey Morgan crash from last year demonstrated. The Wal-Mart truck driver was found to have been awake 28 hours when the crash occurred, but because he was only driving the truck for some of that time, he was not in technical violation of the HOS rules.

He clearly violated the spirit of the regulations, and that negligence led to his falling asleep behind the wheel and causing the fatal crash.

One expert argues that driver’s sleep is what should be regulated, but monitoring and enforcing that rule would be even more problematic than the incredibly complex enforcement of the existing HOS rules.

Truck drivers with poor sleep habits can fall victim to micro-sleep, where they may doze off for a few seconds at a time while driving. This is a significant and potentially deadly problem for truck drivers who are piloting 40 tons of truck down a road at 65mph and a few seconds of micro-sleep can mean running off the road, crossing the median or crashing into the rear end of other vehicles.

Better electronic monitoring of trucks may help, but as much depends on truck drivers recognizing the risk and altering their behavior. Of course, effective federal regulations directing that behavior can be helpful.

Source:, “Are Line Haul Drivers Getting Enough Sleep?” Steve Banker, August 7, 2015

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