“For weeks, lawmakers have haggled over the costs and benefits associated with making changes to truck driver regulations,” said Louthian, who represents clients in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits involving commercial motor vehicles such as trucks, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers and semis.
“But you can’t put a price on a human life,” Louthian said.” If changes to the law can prevent fatigued driving among truck drivers, then my firm stands fully behind it..
Preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that more than 1,500 people were injured in South Carolina truck accidents in 2010. Information on South Carolina truck crash fatalities for 2010 is currently unavailable, but there were 82 deaths in 2009, USDOT statistics show.
And according to the National Sleep Foundation – the sponsor of National Drowsy Driving Prevention Week – fatigued driving played a role in 1 in 6 fatal auto accidents in 2010. An estimated 1 in 8 of those crashes resulted in an occupant’s hospitalization.
“It’s clear that fatigued driving is a problem regardless of what type of vehicle you drive,” Louthian said. “But truck drivers sit behind the wheel of 10,000-pound machines that can have a much more devastating effect in a crash. Reducing their driving time, even by one hour, could save lives..
The proposed changes to the FMCSA rules include:
- Cutting driving time within a 24-hour driving period from 11 hours to 10;
- Limiting drivers to one 34-hour restart within a seven-day period and requiring all 34-hour restarts to include two periods between midnight and 6 a.m.;
- Forcing truckers to take at least one 30-minute break after being on duty for seven hours and a total of one hour of breaks within any 14-16-hour driving window.
Opponents of the proposal – including truck carriers and truck drivers themselves – claim that the changes would force companies to hire more truckers, put more pressure on drivers and could paradoxically increase the number of crashes by putting more trucks on the road, according to a Bloomberg News report.
“Again we come back to the question of profits over people,” Louthian said. “Of course, we need trucks to provide goods to consumers across America. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is doing right by the public by examining their regulations closely..
Not only that, the agency is doing right by its truck drivers, the South Carolina attorney added.
“Just because trucks are bigger and drivers are less likely to suffer the worst injuries doesn’t mean they never get hurt,” Louthian said. “Their families suffer just as much from the emotional and financial burdens of a truck accident as would any other family..
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,380 truck-related fatalities in 2009, the latest year for which complete data is available. Of that number, 503 of the deaths were truck drivers.
Louthian said it’s important for people who have been injured in truck accidents to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
“Unlike your traditional auto wreck, the trucking industry is regulated by strict federal guidelines that can be hard for the layperson to interpret,” he said. “There’s also the issue of going up against large trucking corporations who have teams of defense lawyers at their disposal. An experienced truck accident attorney can conduct a thorough investigation so that accident victims can focus on their recovery..