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New rules address truck driver fatigue

Most Louisiana drivers are aware that it can be dangerous to drive when they are tired, and it can be especially hazardous if an individual is driving an 18-wheeler.  It has been over a year since new rules instituted by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) took effect on July 1, 2013. An increasing number of truck accidents involving driver fatigue prompted the FMCSA to amend certain rules to increase safety for truck drivers and the public alike. 

The FMCSA mandated that a truck driver's workweek could not be longer than 70 hours. This includes allowing truckers to be behind the wheel for 11 hours a day, but their total workday cannot be more than 14 hours. A mandatory 34-consecutive-hour rest period must occur when a driver reaches 70 hours in a week before he or she can get back on the road. Drivers are also required to take a break of at least 30 minutes before they have been driving for eight hours in any given day.

The new rules are said to only apply to approximately 15 percent of the trucking industry. The remaining 85 percent are already following these rules. Both companies and drivers could face hefty fines per incident for violating these rules.

Even with the new rules, accidents caused by truck driver fatigue still occur. If someone traveling Louisiana's roadways is seriously injured or killed as a result of a tired driver, he or she -- or the family of a deceased victim -- retains the right to file a civil action against the truck driver and his or her employer. A successful action could result in an award of damages such as medical expenses, pain and suffering -- and even funeral and burial costs in the case of death.

Source: dot.gov, "New Hours-of-Service Safety Regulations to Reduce Truck Driver Fatigue Begin Today", , Sept. 21, 2014