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The debate regarding commercial truckers and fatigue rages on

The United States Department of Transportation estimates that about 13 percent of all truck crashes owe largely to driver fatigue. The American Trucking Associations -- the nation’s largest commercial trucking advocacy group -- contests that estimate, stating that it overestimates the role of fatigue in truck accidents. The ATA counters that a more accurate figure is about seven percent.

Driver-related fatigue in commercial truck accidents has been a hotly contested subject for years. Government regulators from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board and other safety advocacy groups have long contended that regulation concerning drivers’ maximum hours spent on the road each week has been lax.

Federal legislation finally took effect last year that established materially curbed driving hours per day and per week for commercial drivers, with additional caveats attached. The rules apply with equal uniformity across the country, including in Illinois.

Ironically, and following a lengthy period of study and public hearings that served as a prerequisite to the passage of the legislation focused on driver drowsiness, the law has been at least temporarily frozen pursuant to a recent U.S. senate amendment that calls for further study.

Although estimates differ on the centrality of driver drowsiness in fatal truck crashes, it remains unarguable that many commercial drivers spend long and continuous hours on the road in their rigs and that high numbers of truck accidents occur each year nationally.

Reportedly, 30,000-plus traffic fatalities occur annually in the United States, with larger-sized trucks being involved in about 14 percent of those accidents.

Source: The New York Times, “Truckers resist rules on sleep, despite risks of drowsy driving,” Jad Mouawad and Elizabeth A. Harris, June 16, 2014

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