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Hours of service rule for truckers challenged as threat to safety

As a trucking trial attorney, I see case after case of fatigued truck drivers, either near the end of their legal hours of service, or pushing beyond those hours, causing crashes due to impaired perception, reaction and judgment. For the past several years there has been a battle over extension of legal driving hours from 10 hours to 11 hours during a 14 hour shift.

A group of trucking safety and truck driver organizations have challenged the current administration’s effort to make the current hours of service rule permanent on President Bush’s last day in office.

The final rule, which is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 19, allows truckers to drive up to 11 hours out of 14 hours on duty in a single shift, while driving 88 hours or working 98 hours over eight consecutive days.

The organizations joining in filing a petition for reconsideration of the rule include Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, Truck Safety Coalition, and International Brotherhood of Teamsters. They previously won two court rulings against the rule, only to see the FMCSA reissue essentially the same rule.

The petition for reconsideration asks FMCSA to reconsider the regulation based on errors and misrepresentations of research findings showing that much longer working and driving hours will produce severely fatigued drivers who also can suffer serious health problems from excessively long working hours.

Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said “FMCSA simply disregarded scores of studies conducted over more than 30 years showing that this incredibly demanding working and driving schedule will lead to exhausted truck drivers who literally can fall asleep at the wheels of their rigs.”

John Lannen, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, stated “FMCSA has issued a regulation that just doesn’t care about the health and safety of truck drivers, much less anyone else sharing the road with them. The agency attempted to justify this bankrupt regulation by manipulating the enormous body of facts and science that clearly shows that truck drivers, like other workers, cannot perform safely day after day, week after week, under these incredible working schedules. This rule threatens the personal safety of everyone on America’s roads.”

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). 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 national seminar speaker for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he was a faculty member for ten years at the Emory University Law School Trial Techniques Program. Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.

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