Accidents caused by fatigued tractor-trailer drivers can cause catastrophic injuries, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration tries to reduce the number of these crashes by strictly enforcing hours of service regulations. These rules set limits on how long truck drivers can spend behind the wheel before taking a break, but industry groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say that they may be placing road users in Illinois and around the country in danger.
The OOIDA is particularly concerned about the rule that restricts the shifts worked by truck drivers to 14 hours. While the trade group does not object to the 14-hour limit, they have petitioned the FMCSA to allow drivers to stop the clock periodically for up to three hours. Doing this would permit drivers to work the same 14 hours over a longer period of time, and the OOIDA says that it would allow them to take rests when they are tired and pull over when road conditions become treacherous due to weather.
The current hours of service regulations were put into place in 2013, and they are unnecessarily complex and inflexible according to groups like the OOIDA. Not allowing truck drivers to pause their 14-hour clocks to take much-needed breaks puts all road users in jeopardy according to these critics. They say that the current rule encourages truck drivers to travel as far as possible before reaching their time limits, which could lead them to remain behind the wheel despite being dangerously fatigued.
While police often have few clues to suggest that a passenger vehicle driver fell asleep before crashing, truck accident investigators can check hours of service logs and tractor-trailer data recorders. Experienced personal injury attorneys may also use this evidence to establish negligence in lawsuits filed on behalf of accident victims, and they may initiate litigation against both truck drivers and their employers when lives were placed at risk because safety regulations were violated.