Has the government made working conditions for truckers unsafe?

Trucking is a huge part of the United States economy. According to statistics from the American Trucking Associations, in 2013, trucks accounted for 81 percent of the $682 billion in freight revenue. In order to generate this level of revenue though, trucking companies have to keep tight schedules, oftentimes requiring their drivers to work longer hours than they should. In many cases, drivers arrive at their destination fatigued only to have to turn around again to get another load.

A rise in the number of fatigued-driving cases across the nation among commercial truck drivers forced the federal government to act. New rules were put in place that reduced the number of hours a truck driver could operate before needing to take a rest break. The rules also increased the amount of rest time needed before returning to work. The thought was that the new regulations would reduce the likelihood of fatigued driving, thereby reducing the number of accidents as well.

But according to many in the trucking industry, the change in rest rules created another situation that may be just as problematic as fatigued driving. Truckers across the nation, including here in South Carolina, are now running into the problem of finding “legal, safe and well-lit parking places” in some cities across the nation. In some cases, truck drivers are forced to drive miles out of their way, sometimes at the risk of violating rest rules in order to find a safe place to park and rest.

Even though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put a stay on the changed rest rules until further studies could prove the impact they would have on fatigued driving, current rest rules still mean truckers will encounter instances where there are no safe, legal parking spaces nearby. This creates a predicament for truckers: drive out of your way to find a spot at the risk of driving fatigued and risk violating federal regulations or park in a potentially unsafe area and risk being injured or killed.

As some of our readers may agree, this set of circumstances also creates a unique situation for workers’ compensation and future claims. It raises questions about liability and whether a worker is eligible for benefits because of unsafe conditions created by federal law — questions that should be directed towards a skilled lawyer who can provide the right answers.

Sources: Overdrive, “Parking shortage hits the mainstream,” Todd Dills, Jan. 27, 2015

The Wall Street Journal, “Too Many Trucks, Too Little Parking,” Betsy Morris, Jan. 20, 2015