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DOT preparing to relax hours-of-duty regulations

Hours-of-service regulations limit the amount of time that truck drivers in North Carolina and around the country can remain behind the wheel. The rules are designed to prevent drowsy driving accidents, but industry groups claim that they are too restrictive. The Trump administration may have been swayed by this argument as recent media reports suggest that the Department of Transportation is planning to relax hours-of-service rules.

Under the current regulations, truck drivers can only spend 11 hours behind the wheel during a 14-hour shift. They must also take a 30-minute rest break after 8 hours of driving. Groups including the American Trucking Association say that this is unfair as most commercial vehicle drivers are paid for each mile covered. Press reports do not say what changes will be made by the DOT to the current hours-of-service regulations.

Road safety advocates are concerned about the changes because the number of fatal truck accidents rose by 10% in 2017. Figures from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reveal that 83% of the 4,237 deadly tractor-trailer accidents that occurred in 2017 took place between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. While fatigue was only found to be the cause of 60 of these crashes, safety groups say that the problem is underreported and that the true drowsy driving death toll is likely much higher.

Experienced personal injury attorneys may study hours-of-service records closely when representing truck accident victims. They may also check to see if commercial vehicle operators have a history of fatigue-related violations. This is because evidence revealing that safety regulations were ignored might be used to prove that truck drivers or logistics companies failed to meet their duty of care to take all reasonable steps to protect road users from harm.

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