No one should ever get behind the wheel or operate a vehicle while feeling tired, especially truck drivers. The main reason for this is because semi-trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds, which can lead to a complete disaster on the highway.
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented an Hours of Service (HOS) policy across the United States to avoid dangerous situations like this, many trucking companies try to find ways around this or encourage their truckers to violate these regulations put in place by the federal government in order to make sure their loads make it to specific destinations on time.
What is the HOS policy created by the FMCSA?
The HOS policy created by the FMCSA provides the maximum number of hours that a truck driver can drive while on duty. It also explains the length of rest periods required for drivers. The goal of the HOS policy is to ensure that drivers remain alert and awake during the duration of their drive. Here are some of the rules mentioned in this policy:
- Truck drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours after having a break or rest for 10 hours off duty.
- Truck drivers must have a 30-minute break after driving for eight straight hours.
- Truck drivers are not allowed to drive over 70 hours in eight consecutive days.
What happens if a trucking company’s policies go against HOS?
If a trucking company requires a trucker to go against HOS, several consequences may occur. One of the most common consequences from going against this federal policy is that a truck driver will drive while drowsy or fatigued, which may result in a very dangerous or deadly accident. The following are a few ways that driving while tired can affect a truck driver:
- The truck driver’s reaction times may decrease.
- The truck driver becomes less alert and attentive.
- The truck driver is more prone to making mistakes and errors.
- The truck driver’s problem solving and decision-making processes are severely impacted.
How and why trucking companies encourage hazardous driving practices
The unfortunate reality is that trucking companies often put profit above other individuals’ safety, including their own drivers. Therefore, their concentration is on making sure their products are delivered as quickly as possible, so their truckers can move on to the next delivery. This makes them more money, which is their main concern and goal. The FMCSA is clear on the HOS regulations, but many trucking companies still encourage their truck drivers to hurry and continue driving even if they are over the limit of hours set by the HOS policy.
Common tactics used by trucking companies that encourage dangerous driving include:
- Giving out financial awards and incentives to truck drivers who arrive at their destinations on time or ahead of time.
- Making threats to demote, decrease pay, or fire truck drivers who do not make it to their destinations on time.
- Stating that they will not ask or investigate if truck drivers choose to use medications or other methods to stay awake during the duration of their drives.
Encouragements like these come with traumatic and devastating outcomes. In fact, most of the time, when truck drivers are encouraged to go against policies such as the HOS regulations, truck drivers, pedestrians, and other automobile drivers become severely affected when a truck accident occurs.
Other types of violations that companies may encourage from their truck drivers
Although the HOS policy is one of the main types of violations that trucking companies encourage from their truck drivers, there are a few others worth mentioning, such as:
- Overloading: There are laws prohibiting semi-trucks from being overloaded or improperly loaded when transporting goods across the United States. However, trucking companies may encourage loaders to try to fit as many goods as possible, which can lead to the truck becoming very difficult to control and maneuver.
- Substance abuse: The FMCSA has implemented specific laws and guidelines addressing substance abuse among truck drivers. Therefore, if a truck driver refuses or fails a drug test, they are required to stop driving and cannot return to work until they complete the return-to-duty process. However, some companies may operate under a “don’t ask don’t tell” rule in which they do not question the truck driver’s substance abuse.
- Documentation and licensing: Truck drivers are required to complete necessary recordkeeping and licensing. That said, they must be completely honest and truthful when it comes to their documentation and licensing. This means that they should never operate a semi-truck without the proper class license, and they should never lie on their records. However, some trucking companies may encourage their employees to lie about their driving hours or other important elements in their records. In addition, they may allow their drivers to drive with the wrong class license or an expired license.
How other people besides the truck driver may be harmed by the company’s policies
When a company’s policies encourage truck drivers to violate federal laws and guidelines put in place to keep people safe and harm-free, life-threatening accidents occur. This not only affects the truck driver, but it can also affect people nearby who are simply going about their day. Some examples of the types of accidents that may affect other people in these situations include:
- Truck backup accidents
- Rear-end accidents
- Lost loads
- Front-end collisions
- T-bone accidents
- Jackknife accidents
- Improper lane changes
- Blindspot accidents
- Underride accidents
Many of these accidents occur due to the truck driver and company’s negligence. While truck drivers can become harmed during these types of accidents, other automobile drivers and pedestrians are often severely hurt as well. Therefore, it is highly recommended that trucking companies do not implement policies or encourage their employees to participate in dangerous driving practices.
If you were involved in a truck accident, contact Soroka & Associates in Columbus as soon as possible to begin discussing the legal options that may be available to you. These types of accidents can become complicated quickly, which is why you need the help and guidance of a Columbus truck accident lawyer. We have the resources, skills, and experience to stand up against large trucking companies and fight for the fair amount of compensation you deserve. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.