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Current HOS rules blamed for rise in trucking deaths

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported 4,761 large-truck fatalities in 2017, marking a 9 percent increase from 2016 and a 29-year high. At the same time, motor vehicle crash deaths in general went down 2 percent. Many in the trucking industry in New York and across the U.S. believe that several factors are involved in this trend, the first having to do with federal hours-of-service guidelines.

In particular, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates that all commercial truckers take a 30-minute break after driving for eight consecutive hours. The result, according to trucking industry representatives, is that truckers become more drowsy behind the wheel and sometimes choose to speed in order to make their deliveries on time.

The FMCSA may consider a modification of the rule as it is currently reviewing around 5,200 comments regarding HOS regulations. The 30-minute break rule was the No. 1 concern among commenters. Second only to this concern, according to the American Transportation Research Institute, is the lack of accessible truck parking. Most crashes where the at-fault trucker is drowsy occur at least 20 miles from rest areas.

Other indisputable factors include distracted and inattentive driving. Truckers frequently text and drive like other drivers, and they are at risk for growing complacent when driver-assist features are engaged.

When a motor vehicle accident is caused through trucker negligence, a victim may be able to receive damages that cover medical expenses, lost wages and other losses. A lawyer can hire investigators to build up the case against a trucker. Even the trucking company could be held liable for not doing enough to discourage bad habits like texting and driving. The lawyer can proceed to negotiate for a settlement or litigate if one cannot be agreed upon.

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