If you’ve ever been driving near large trucks, then you’re probably aware of how a single mistake can cause the driver to weave into another lane or make other dangerous maneuvers. Trucking accidents can take lives and cause serious harm to those involved, but yet many companies still pressure their drivers to break the rules. When that happens, people end up getting hurt.
While most truck drivers are responsible drivers, there are times when they’re asked to push their limits. When they’ve been driving too long or are distracted by other issues, there is a much higher likelihood that a crash will result.
How do trucking companies push their drivers to break the law, even if unintentional?
One of the things many companies do is to put drivers on tight schedules. Drivers know that they will be paid more based on how much they drive, so completing a journey faster is in their best interests. Unfortunately, that can also mean that a driver is on the road longer than they should be or that they speed when they shouldn’t.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has hours of services regulations that truck drivers and their employers are expected to respect. Violating these HOS rules is against the law and could lead to penalties.
In 2020, the hours of service regulations were adjusted to provide better flexibility, but the goal was to do so without impacting safety. For example, if a driver is moving in adverse driving conditions, there is now an exception that allows them to expand their driving hours.
After eight hours of driving, at least 30 minutes have to be taken off, but the HOS regulations now allow a mix of on-duty/not driving periods to count toward that break. Essentially, that allows drivers not to take a break at all in some cases.
In the case of short-haulers, 14-hour shifts are acceptable thanks to an exception. Now, 150 air-miles are allowed as well.
Finally, the sleeper berth provision was altered to allow drivers to get their 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement more easily. Now, they have to spend only seven hours in the berth with at least two other hours outside or inside the berth. In total, 10 hours have to be spent off, but this does allow drivers to minimize downtime.
Companies that do not enforce these requirements, or that push their workers, are putting their team and others at risk. If a crash happens, they can be held accountable.