Risk of Houston Trucking Accidents Could be Reduced by New Hours-of-Service Proposal

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is accepting public input on proposed new hours-of-service rules designed to prevent Houston trucking accidents and tractor-trailer accidents nationwide.

As we reported recently on our Houston Injury Lawyer Blog, Texas leads the nation in fatal trucking accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported a total of 421 fatal Texas trucking accidents in 2008. California was the only other state to report more than 300 with 304.

A top rated Houston vehicle injury attorney will understand that hours-of-service rules are just one of the many complex factors that a personal injury lawyer or wrongful death attorney must examine when dealing with a serious or fatal trucking accident. Maintenance logs, the condition of the truck, the record of the driver, and whether or not a driver was text messaging (which is now illegal under federal law in all 50 states) are just a few of the other issues that should be examined.

Hours-of-Service rules dictate how many hours in a row and how many hours in a week that a driver may remain behind the wheel. The restrictions were relaxed in the final days of President George W. Bush’s Administration and federal authorities are now looking at tightening them up again.

“A fatigued driver has no place behind the wheel of a large commercial truck,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We are committed to an hours-of-service rule that will help create an environment where commercial truck drivers are rested, alert and focused on safety while on the job.”

The new HOS rules would retain the 34-hour restart provision, which requires 34 hours off duty before a driver can restart their weekly 60 or 70 hour work clock. However, the new proposal would require that time include two consecutive off-duty periods between midnight and 6 a.m.

The proposal would also require drivers to complete a day’s drive within 14 hours and to complete all work-related tasks within 13 hours, which would permit a one-hour break. The new proposal does not address whether drivers should be limited to 10 hours or 11 hours of daily driving time, though the government says it favors the 10-hour restriction.

Other provisions permit extending a driver’s shift to 16 hours twice a week to accommodate issues such as loading and unloading.

Commercial drivers who violate the proposal would face fine of up to $2,750 per offense. Trucking companies could face fines up to $11,000 per violation.

The session will be held Feb. 17 in Arlington, Virginia. Here is more information on the hours-of-service safety hearing.

The proposed new hours-of-service rules are available here.

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If you have been involved in a Houston trucking accident, contact The Stephens Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Houston Injury Attorney Joe Stephens has nearly three decades of experience representing personal injury and wrongful death cases. A Personal Injury Trial Law Specialist through the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1993, Attorney Stephens has won multiple verdicts over $1 million and is a Million Dollar Advocates Member.