October 10, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Each year, thousands of people across the U.S. are seriously injured in accidents involving large commercial trucks. Though the causes of these accidents may vary, studies indicate that truck driver fatigue is a contributing factor in a significant number of truck crashes
. In recent years, the hazards posed by trucker fatigue have led to action by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, including new regulations requiring truck drivers to take 30 minute breaks after eight hours behind the wheel. Some believe, however, that these measures are not enough and that FMCSA can do more to address the issue.
Recently, Representatives Larry Bucshon of Indiana and Daniel Lipinski of Illinois introduced legislation in Congress that would require the FMCSA to issue regulations regarding truck drivers with sleeping disorders. The agency was expected to issue a guidance document on the issue, rather than an official regulation before this legislation was introduced. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, can contribute significantly to driver fatigue.
For its part, the trucking industry has embraced the legislation proposed by Bucshon and Lipinski. Many believed that if the FMCSA were to issue a simple guideline regarding sleep disorders, it would leave trucking companies vulnerable to litigation under some circumstances. Experts also point out that if the agency were to issue a formal rule on the matter, it would be classified as "economically significant" under federal regulations. This means that the FMCSA would be required to hold hearings about the economic costs of the regulations, as well as possible benefits. This process would not be necessary if the agency simply issued a guidance document. By some estimates, the process of screening, diagnosing and treating truck drivers for sleep disorders would cost the industry approximately $1 billion each year.
It is too early to say whether the proposed bill will become law, though it is likely to receive some attention due to broad based support by industry groups. Indeed, the American Trucking Associations, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have all come out in support of the bill.
No matter what, it is important that the focus of any kind of hearing or rule making process be the safety of all drivers on our nation's highways. Rules requiring that drivers be screened for sleep disorders may be costly, but they very well may prevent countless injuries and deaths due to health problems that could be easily treated.
Article provided by Domnitz & Skemp, S.C.
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