Driver fatigue is one of the major causes of large truck crashes, though perhaps less so than prescription and over the counter medications. The battle over truck drivers’ hours of service rules has raged for six years now. I won’t repeat the whole controversy here. While there is much more detail, the short version is that under the old rule truckers could drive 10 hours per day, and now they can drive 11 hours per day. They are now allowed 77 hours in seven days or 88 hours in eight days, 25 percent more than previously.
The current rule became final immediately prior to the inauguration of President Obama. The latest round in the hours of service battle came when the same groups that went to court several times to challenge the current rule during the Bush administration. Now they have written to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, urging that the newly permanent hours of service be tossed out.
There are bright, competent people of good will on both sides of this debate. I have friends who are vigorous advocates on both sides who cite scientific studies to justify their positions. I can’t say who is right or wrong. It makes sense that circadian rhythms matter, as the proponents of the current rule point out. It also makes sense that the longer you drive, the more weary you become.
I’m not a sleep scientist, so all I have is experience and common sense. As a lawyer handling these case, I will just work with whatever rules are in effect.
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, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.