TRUCKERS AND DRIVER HOURS

Twenty-five years after a truck accident disaster on 287 in 1994, sleep deprived truck drivers continue killing themselves and innocent victims. Truckers now push for Feds to ease regulations written to keep tired drivers off the road.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 4600 fatal accidents involving large trucks in the U.S. in 2017. More than 1% – an average of 62 per year between 2015-2017 were attributed to drivers who fell asleep or were fatigued.

In an article in The Journal News entitled “Truckers Don’t Want Feds to Limit Their Hours” by Thomas C. Zambito points out that the Federal Transportation Department has agreed to reconsider hours of service rules that limit long-haul drivers to 11 hours of drving over a 14 hour period after being off for 10 consecutive hours. The hour’s service rules went into effect in 2012. Last year, companies were recalled to equip their trucks with electronic logging devices that keep track of hour’s drivers are on the road, eliminating paper logs that were subject to fraud.

Truckers say the current regulations fail to consider real life obstacles the drivers face as they try to negotiate the nations’ highways. According to a Yorktown Heights second generation truck driver Jake Williams, 59 stated “it’s just difficult for regulations to see what’s actually happening outside the windshield of that driver’s truck. “You are commanders of the ship. You are the last word in whatever decision goes on in the movement of that 80,000 pound vehicle. That authority in my view should not be challenged.” Williams drove in New York City to pick up a load of furniture on West 33rd Street but police closed off the street to set up for the NY Pride March preventing him from  getting from upper East Side to the West side. Williams was up against his 11 hour driving limit, which he tracks on his cellphone to avoid getting a violation that could cost him a day or more of driving. He parked his truck and slept in the driver’s seA until 3:00 A.M. when the streets reopened. He would like to see more flexibility in how the Federal Government regulates the industry.

Safety advocates say the current rules already allow truck drivers more than enough time on the road according to the Senior Director of Research for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumers, safety groups and insurance companies.

In the 1994 crash, the National Transportation Safety Board cited Paraco Gas Corp. for failing to keep track of hours driven by their driver who died in the crash. The driver was on his way to Smithtown, New York to deliver 9,200 gallons of propane when his truck drifted across the left lane and onto the shoulder before crashing into the Grant Avenue overpass on I-287 at 12:28 A.M. on July 27, 1994. The driver had slept 2 ½ hours in the 65 hours leading up to the crash. The NTSB noted the driver was paid by the load and not by the hour and was permitted to make his own schedule that proved deadly. He sacrificed his rest in order to complete his delivery within his normal schedule. The Safety Board concluded that Paraco’s policy of paying by the load instead by the hour appeared to encourage drivers to violate hours of service regulations.

In 2003, New Jersey enacted “Maggie’s Law” which allows prosecutors to pursue vehicular homicide charges for drivers deemed to be sleep deprived. Efforts in New York to pass a similar law has been unsuccessful. New York continues to add rumble strips to road shoulders and center lines of State roads to stir awake sleepy drivers. To date, center lane rumble strips have been installed on more than 4390 miles of State highways. A recent analysis of 1300 miles of New York State roads with center lane strips led to 50% reduction in fatalities in 2016 & 2017. In a 2003 analysis by the New York State Thruway Authority showed that the addition of rumble strips on shoulders had led to nearly an 80% reduction in run off crashes.

In New York, fatigued driving was a factor in about 2,337 accidents that involved fatalities or injuries in 2017, according to The Traffic Safety Management and Research. In 2018, the number of accidents were 2273, a decrease of 2%.

If you or a loved one has been injured or has died from a truck accident, call the law firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800 or on the web at WhitePlains-Injury-Lawyer.com