Recent data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals large trucks are more dangerous than ever.
Facing an increase in the number of people killed each year in collisions with tractor-trailers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiated regulatory changes in 2011.
Targeting the fatigue often underpinning fatal truck accidents, the rule revisions came into full effect on July 1, 2013. The changes include the following:
- The hours of service an operator may drive a truck was reduced from 82 to 70 hours per week.
- A 30-minute break is required during the first eight hours of a driving shift.
- A driving week cannot be restarted without a mandatory 34-hour consecutive driving break with two nights of sleep between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The FMCSA also highlighted the dangers of sleep apnea, a sleeping and respiratory disorder that claims lives by causing drowsy driving. These facts are of particular importance to long-haul truck drivers:
- Sleep apnea may be caused by the collapse of the soft palate during deep sleep. This obstructs the upper airway and reduces oxygen to the body, putting strain on the internal organs. Sleep apnea may cause sleepers to stop breathing momentarily throughout the night.
- Sleep apnea prohibits deep, restful sleep. It may result in drowsy driving, because it reduces the ability to maintain the mental, physical and visual attention necessary for the task of operating a vehicle. Drowsy driving also increases the time it takes to react and decreases the ability to make appropriate decisions in an emergency situation.
- Drowsy driving can be caused by short- or long-term sleep deprivation and certain medications.
Fatalities from large truck accidents rose 3.7 percent in 2012. If you are sharing the road with a big rig, steer clear. And if you are injured in a truck accident in North Carolina, talk to experienced legal counsel.