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Truck driver fatigue: Regulations can help roadway safety

There are a myriad of reasons why truck accidents happen in New Jersey. Road conditions in the winter, negligent car drivers and mechanical failure are just a few. But as mentioned previously, when truck drivers aren't following safety regulations, the risk of accidents and injuries increases. Often these injuries are catastrophic because of the sheer size of a big rig compared to other vehicles. This is one reason why truckers are held to a higher safety standard by states and the federal government.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, driver fatigue concerns prompted the hours-of-service regulations that the United States Department of Transportation has put in place to increase safety on roadways all across the country. Anyone who drives a commercial vehicle must adhere to these rules. This includes, generally, any truck or tractor-trailer involved in interstate commerce that weighs 10,001 pounds or more, including its load, or one with a gross weight rating of the same. Also, transport of hazardous materials in sufficient quantity to require a placard fits this classification.

Three maximum limits must be followed always. They are a 14-hour driving window limit, 11-hour driving limit and 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day duty limits. Truckers are required to keep daily logs providing proof of compliance. Basically, this means during 14 consecutive hours, a person can only drive for a total of 11, and only after having been off for 10 hours. There are some variations and exceptions allowed for specific situations such as if a truck has a sleeper berth and short distance hauling.

When a semi truck accident happens, investigators will include an in-depth review of trucking logs and truck company compliance as part of figuring out whether truck driver fatigue contributed to the crash. For victims who have been injured or worse, this information is relevant to help when deciding about seeking compensation. It's not unheard of for trucking companies to break rules or falsify logs. The price paid by an innocent bystander because of resulting driver fatigue can be huge. However, New Jersey victims and families have legal options to explore once facts are established.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "Interstate Truck Driver's Guide to Hours of Service" Aug. 28, 2014

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