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FMCSA proposed relaxed hours-of-service rules

Truck drivers in Virginia and around the country will be subject to less stringent hours-of-service regulations if revisions to the rules announced on Aug. 14 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are implemented. Organizations representing truck drivers and logistics companies have long called for more flexible regulations and claim that relaxing the rules could actually make the roads safer, but groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety oppose the changes and say that they will lead to more accidents and more deaths.

The proposed hours-of-service revisions would allow truck drivers to take a mandatory 30-minute break at any time during their shifts. This would allow them to meet the requirement while waiting for cargo to be loaded or unloaded. The revised rules would also extend the shifts worked by short-haul truck drivers from 12 to 14 hours and allow them to work within a 150-mile radius instead of a 100-mile radius.

Road safety advocacy groups are particularly worried about the changes to the short-haul rules. In a recent a letter to the FMCSA, the IIHS pointed out that truck drivers who do not log their hours electronically under the short-haul exemption had accident rates 383% higher than interstate truck drivers who keep electronic records. The public will have 45 days to comment on the proposed changes after they have been published in the Federal Register.

Experienced personal injury attorneys may seek to establish that an accident was caused by truck driver fatigue by scrutinizing hours-of-service records. When this information is not available, attorneys may seek to have the truck involved inspected because modern tractor-trailers have electronic systems that monitor performance and keep track of maintenance schedules. This means that the information stored on a truck's data recorder could reveal how much time it had spent on the road before crashing.

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