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Comedian’s accident brings drowsy truck drivers to national spotlight

Tracy Morgan’s recent accident caused by a drowsy truck driver has put a spotlight on this recurrent problem.

The problem that fatigued truck drivers pose to other motorists recently received national attention. In a recent truck accident, comedian Tracy Morgan (famous for his appearances on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock) was seriously injured by a fatigued truck driver. Morgan was traveling in a van when he was rear-ended by a semi truck. The driver of the truck, who admitted that he had not slept in over 24 hours, is facing multiple criminal charges.

For decades, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has attempted to stem the number of truck accidents caused by driver fatigue through its hours of service (HOS) regulations. These regulations set the rules on how long drivers must rest between shifts.

In the most recent HOS regulations, implemented in mid-2013, the FMCSA significantly modified truck driver rest periods. Under the new HOS rules, drivers may now only work up to 70 hours in a workweek, a 12-hour decrease from the former rules.

Additionally, the new HOS rules now require drivers to rest for 34 consecutive hours over two nighttime periods once drivers have reached their maximum hours. Specifically, the rules require two consecutive periods of rest between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.-a period where experts say that the human body needs sleep the most. The old rules prescribed the same amount of rest, but did not require it to be taken over two consecutive nights. In making these changes, the FMCSA hopes to ensure that drivers receive the rest they need before their 70-hour shifts.

However, the changes have not been well received in an industry where shorter workweeks can mean a loss of profits. Recently, several trucking organizations have objected to the rules, contending that they actually put truck drivers at a greater risk of accidents, since the modified rest period puts more trucks on the road during rush hour and times of high congestion. Additionally, trucking companies have lobbied Congress seeking relief from the new HOS regulations. Currently, there is a bill pending in the Senate that would pause the enforcement of the new rules.

Remedies for those injured

Since complying with the HOS regulations may cause a loss of profits, many trucking companies, like the one involved in the Morgan accident presumably, have pressured their drivers to limit their rest periods. However, doing so is illegal. Drivers and companies that attempt to ignore the rules can face a civil lawsuit (in addition to criminal penalties) if their actions lead to an accident.

If you or a close family member have been the victim of a truck accident, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can inquire into the cause of the accident and work to ensure that the responsible parties are held accountable for the medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages that you were forced to endure because of their negligence.

Keywords: truck accidents, drowsy driving

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