Recent Congressional action may mean more truck accidents

According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an average of 11 fatal truck accidents occur each day. Additionally, according to the agency, about 4,000 people are killed and 100,000 are injured in truck accidents each year. Knowing these two facts, you may think that the federal government would be considering enacting tougher regulations to protect the public. Unfortunately, however, the opposite is occurring in reality.

Rest break changes

For the majority of last year, regulations required truck drivers to rest for 34 hours between workweeks over two consecutive nighttime periods. Specifically, the rest period had to include two consecutive rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. when the body is in most need of rest, according to sleep experts. However, late last year, Congress suspended these regulations, allowing trucking companies to force truck drivers to take their 34-hour rest breaks over just one night. Along with changes to the rest periods, Congress also increased truck drivers' maximum workweeks from 70 hours to 82.

Unfortunately, longer hours and less sleep may mean that more fatigued truckers are on the roads. As a result, truckers may not be able to focus as well on the demanding task of driving and are less able to assess their own fatigue. This may mean that the risk of truck accidents, which often result in serious injuries or death, may increase significantly.

Changes to tractor-trailer lengths

In addition to changes in rest breaks and workweek lengths, Congress is considering increasing the maximum length of double-trailer trucks that are allowable on national roads. Under the proposal, trucks may haul two 33-foot trailers. This is a significant increase over the current limit for double trailers in California of 28 feet, six inches. If passed, the proposal would supersede California's limit as well as the laws of 38 other states that have set lower limits.

Although proponents argue that longer trailers would increase efficiency and lower shipping costs, it would likely have a negative effect on roadway safety for several reasons:

• The existing infrastructure in many areas was not designed to accommodate vehicles of such lengths.

• Longer tractor-trailers require significantly more time and distance to come to a complete stop.

• In general, double-trailers are more unstable and difficult to keep under control.

These factors taken together could significantly increase the risk of truck accidents, even if truck drivers always operated under ideal conditions. However, if the driver is fatigued, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, inattentive, or if the brakes are not in good working order, this could mean that this law would have catastrophic results safety-wise.

If injured, get legal help

Although some truck accidents are caused by other factors, negligence on the part of the driver or trucking company (e.g. worn brakes or faulty maintenance) is often the cause of truck accidents. However, the exact cause of the collision is not always obvious and is often only uncovered after an extensive investigation following the accident.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a truck accident, it is important to get the facts regarding the cause of the accident and your legal rights. An experienced personal injury attorney can work with investigators to determine the precise cause of the accident and hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligent behavior.