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Reports suggest DOT will relax hours-of-service rules

Every year, many road users in North Carolina are killed or seriously injured due to accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers. Federal hours-of-service regulations have been put into place to help prevent fatigue-related crashes, but industry groups like the American Trucking Association have lobbied Congress aggressively to relax the rules. These organizations say that the regulations do little to improve road safety but limit the amount that truck drivers can earn.

Recent media reports suggest that this argument has been persuasive as the department of Transportation is said to be preparing to loosen the hours-of-service rules. The move has not been made public, and initial reports contain few details. Current regulations limit truckers to 11 hours of behind-the-wheel time during a 14-hour shift and require them to rest for at least 30 minutes after eight hours of driving.

Relaxing hours-of-service regulations is likely to be opposed by road safety groups because the number of deadly truck crashes rose by an alarming 10% in 2017. While fatigue was only cited by investigators as the cause of 60 of the more than 4,000 deadly commercial vehicle crashes that year, experts believe the true number is likely much higher. This view is supported by data revealing that 83% of fatal tractor-trailer accidents take place at night.

If a crash victim has been injured by a drowsy commercial vehicle driver, a personal injury attorney may scrutinize hours-of-service logs and the information stored on tractor-trailer data recorders. Hours-of-service records could show how long truck drivers were on the road before crashing, and black box-type recorders may reveal whether or not they took any kind of evasive action before a collision. Other indications of fatigue include drifting between lanes and sudden and sharp braking.

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