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Yawning Danger – call to take truckers back to 10 hours driving per day

Truck driver fatigue as a cause of major tractor trailer accidents is an old story. As a trucking trial lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, I have seen it too many times.

In today’s Baltimore Sun, there is an editorial, “Yawning Danger,” urging the incoming Obama administration to overturn the hours of service rule that is set to become permanent on the last day of the Bush administration. The old rule limited truck drivers to 10 hours of driving in one day. The current temporary rule, which will become “permanent” on January 19th, allows driving 11 hours during 14 hours on duty.

The editorial points out:

Has the 11th hour made the roads more dangerous? Are 11th-hour drivers more likely to be involved in crashes? Some research suggests no, and that’s the evidence sited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration when it granted the rule change in November. But advocates say the government’s analysis relies heavily on one study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that is deeply flawed (depending, for instance, on truckers being videotaped; the presence of a camera onboard likely affected their performance).

The bulk of 35 years of research, the petitioners point out, shows that the performance of long-haul truck drivers diminishes even before the 10-hour limit is reached. And while the number of highway fatalities was down the last two years, it went up the first year the new rules were in place. Recent safety improvements to roads and vehicles as well as lower average highway speeds may be masking the effect of the longer hours.

It seems like common sense that fatigue is progressive, and that one is more fatigued and more accident prone in the 11th hour of driving than in the 10th hour.

Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale), and is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy,. He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education programs for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.