L&E's David Brose Discusses Truck Driver Fatigue and Regulatory Changes

Langdon & Emison attorney David Brose published a recent blog post about changes to the hours of service regulations that govern truck drivers’ work hours and the amendments’ potential impact on truck driver fatigue.  

The most recent hours of service provision – passed by Congress in December 2014 – allows truck drivers to work as many as 82 hours a week. It also eliminates a previous requirement that truck drivers must take breaks between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on consecutive nights before they can work again.

2013 Hours of Service Regulations

The provision rolled back the 2013 hours of service requirements that were designed to improve safety of the motoring public by reducing driver fatigue. Under those requirements, truck drivers were limited to a 70-hour work week and were required to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

It was estimated that the 2013 regulations would save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes, resulting in $280 million in savings from fewer crashes. Unfortunately, the new regulations could put more tired truck drivers on the road.

“The effect of sleep deprivation is cumulative, and losing as little as one to two hours of sleep per night can cause serious sleep deprivation over time,” Brose wrote. “Each hour of sleep lost is an hour added to a person’s sleep debt and can only be reduced by getting extra sleep.”

The Risks of Truck Driver Fatigue

In the National Sleep Foundation’s 2012 Sleep in America Poll, truck drivers were reported to work an average 10-hour shift, with the largest portion working shifts from nine to about 12 hours. On average, truck drivers reported working 51 hours each week and almost 40 percent rarely had a good night’s sleep.

Yet, 31 percent of the truck drivers surveyed reported they only needed six to seven hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Further, 60 percent of truck drivers reported they did not drive while drowsy and only 22 percent admitted they had driven drowsy at least once per month.

According to Brose, these statistics demonstrate an apparent disconnect between objective data known about fatigue and the subjective belief of truck drivers that fatigue does not affect their ability to do their jobs safely.

“This puts all citizens who share our roadways with commercial trucks at danger, particularly when hours of service regulations are inadequate to ensure that truck operators are getting the sleep that they need,” wrote Brose.

About David Brose

David Brose is a partner at Langdon & Emison. His practice focuses primarily on trucking accident litigation as well as a range of product liability litigation involving vehicle fires, defective auto products and other types of product defects. David can be reached at 800-397-4910.