Truck and car accidents caused by fatigued drivers are no accident. When a truck driver gets onto the highway in an exhausted state, he or she is significantly more likely to crash. Last week, we read that a TV star, Tracy Morgan, was gravely injured when his van was rearended by a fatigued truck driver. One of his fellow passengers was killed. I have previously written about trucker fatigue and driver safety. Today, I am writing about how the trucking industry continues to fight regulation of limits on driving time.
Federal law requires trucking companies to limit the amount of time that over-the-road truckers spend behind the wheel. These rules were devised in response to the fact that sleepy truckers are at greater risk of causing a collision with another vehicle. It is noteworthy that car crashes involving a behemoth semi-tractor trailer rig are also more likely to result in severe personal injuries or wrongful death.
However, even as the national news was buzzing about the fatigued driver who injured Tracy Morgan, the trucking industry was fighting to loosen these regulations. Last week, a Senate committee passed an amendment that would suspend the requirement that truck drivers rest for at least 34 consecutive hours — including two nights from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. — before returning to the road. Violations of these regulations are already commonplace. Further de-regulation would unnecessarily put all motorists at risk.
We have handled a number of tragic cases involving both fatigued and other careless drivers. The catastrophic results of these truck and car accidents is staggering. Yet, economic interests consider lost human life just another consequence of doing business. Under Ohio law, drive time regulations furnish a basis for punishing trucking companies who disregard safe practices in the endless quest for profits.