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New Safety Regulations Aim To Curb Truck Accidents

For trucking companies and their truck drivers, Monday, July 1, marked a new chapter in trucking company regulation. It marked a new era, too, for the drivers who share the road with semi-trucks and 18-wheelers.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that a set of federal safety regulations swung into full effect on July 1, with trucking companies and their drivers facing stricter hour limits, mandatory rest breaks, and the prospect of harsh fines for failing to comply.

With truck driver fatigue a major cause of serious accidents, our Chicago truck accident attorneys understand the importance of these safety regulations and that their enforcement could save lives every day.

Under these regulations, the maximum average work week for truck drivers is reduced to 70 hours from 82 hours. If a truck driver reaches that 70 hour driving cap over the course of the week, he or she is required to rest for at least 34 hours, including two nights between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., before hitting the road again. Truck drivers are also now legally required to take at least one 30-minute break during the first eight hours of their shift.

According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, these changes were made with not only the safety and well-being of truck drivers in mind, but also for the best interests of each and every driver who shares the road with them.

"Safety is our highest priority. These rules make common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads," said LaHood.

Fatigued Truckers Cause Serious Accidents

One of the common culprits behind many truck accidents is trucker fatigue. When trucking companies neglect to monitor the hours that their employees spend on the road or fail to ensure that their truckers take proper breaks, these truck drivers might push themselves well beyond the point of exhaustion in order to meet tight deadlines or to simply cover a couple hundred miles before coming to a stop.

In 2011, the Illinois Department of Transportation reported 10,033 tractor-trailer crashes. In these crashes, 2,515 people were injured and 93 were killed-most of which were passengers in other vehicles. While truck accidents accounted for just 3.6% of total auto accidents, nearly 10% of all fatal crashes in Illinois were tractor-trailer crashes.

Because trucks are many times larger and heavier than other passenger vehicles, trucking company pressure-when combined with driver fatigue-can have disastrous consequences. Rollover accidents, rear-end accidents, and head-on collisions are all common when a trucker has been stretched to his or her limits. While some accidents only might cause a minor traffic backup on a crowded highway, truck accidents are notorious for causing severe personal injuries or even death.

With the Department of Transportation now starting to enforce these stricter regulations, only time will tell if trucking companies are willing comply. Our Chicago accident attorneys know that these truck companies sometimes will try to bend laws and regulations in their own favor. Under these new regulations, though, trucking companies that fail to comply can face fines of up to $11,000 for each offense. Drivers, too, could be faced with civil penalties of up to $2,750 for violating these new safety standards.

If you've been hurt in a truck accident, contact Chicago personal injury attorneys at Coplan & Crane at (800) 394-6002 for a free case evaluation.