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Trucking deaths rise, some call for HOS rule modifications

Truckers in New Jersey, as elsewhere, may find themselves frustrated by current hours-of-service guidelines. For example, many complain about the rule requiring them to take a 30-minute rest break after driving for eight consecutive hours; according to them, it can create delays, force them to speed to make up for lost time and bring on drowsiness earlier in their shift.

Some believe that the inflexibility of current HOS rules is partly to blame for the rise in large-truck fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 4,761 deaths in 2017: a 9 percent increase from 2016 and a 29-year high. About 1,300 of the victims were truckers themselves.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently reviewing 5,200 comments on its HOS rules and may consider modifications to them. The 30-minute break rule received the most attention among commenters. However, the chief counsel for the FMCSA does not believe there is a link between HOS rules and the rise in deaths.

Other factors are certainly involved. For example, truckers have expressed concern over the lack of accessible truck parking, especially full-service truck stops. Distracted driving is another growing issue with younger drivers texting and driving or becoming inattentive to the road when driver-assist features like adaptive cruise control are on. Many trucking companies are turning to on-board technology to monitor drivers' behavior.

Sometimes, both truckers and their employers can be implicated in a car accident. Whatever the situation, those who are injured through no fault of their own may want to see a lawyer if they intend to seek damages. A successful claim may be able to cover medical expenses, rehabilitative care, past and future lost income, pain and suffering and more. The lawyer might hire investigators to bring together the proof against the defendant before negotiating for a settlement with the trucking company.

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