New Rule Aims To Keep Drowsy Truck Drivers Off The Road

Like many employees, commercial truck drivers often feel pressure from their bosses and other company officials to perform their duties in a certain way. They are pushed to deliver their cargo as quickly as possible, often at the expense of their own rest. Hours of service violations were among the top infractions in roadside inspections in 2014, and the U.S. Department of Transportation named drowsy driving as one of the leading causes of fatal truck crashes.

Drivers Feel Pressure to Work Long Hours

Truckers say they are often put in situations in which they feel they must ignore hours of service rules to keep their jobs. Last year in Michigan, three truckers were fired when they refused to work more than 27 straight hours. The company was fined and the employees reinstated, but the problem is pervasive, and until recently, it was difficult for truckers to know what action to take when faced with that type of situation. In many cases, this resulted in drowsy drivers getting behind the wheel, creating potential risks to all those who share the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently finalized a rule prohibiting companies from encouraging hours of service violations and offering clear reporting practices with serious consequences.

The Coercion Rule

Set to take effect at the end of the month, the coercion rule forbids trucking companies and shippers from pressuring drivers to operate in violation of FMCSA hours of service rules, among others. For coercion to have occurred, three requirements must be met. They are:

  1. The company requests a driver to operate in a manner that would result in the driver violating the hours of service rules.
  2. The driver must inform the company that the rules will be violated should he operate as they asked.
  3. The company must make a threat or take negative action against the driver to convince him to operate despite the violation.

Truck drivers have 90 days from the date of the alleged coercion to file a complaint, and whistleblower laws protect operators from retaliation if they report misconduct.

Large trucks were involved in over 3,800 fatal crashes in 2013. It is well documented that when trucks and cars collide, the smaller car occupants often suffer the most serious injuries. If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a truck accident, and you suspect drowsy driving was a factor, you may be eligible to make a claim. Contact the experienced legal team at the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm at (217) 394-5885 for a free, no-obligation consultation.