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Appellate court sides with feds on truck driver fatigue laws

Truck drivers in Billings, Montana, have received some potentially happy news. To combat truck accidents caused by truck driver fatigue, federal regulators recently made changes to existing laws that limit truck drivers to an 11-hour workday and force them to take a 34-hour rest period each week.

The changes were countered with a petition by the American Trucking Association (ATA), which claimed that such laws would only burden them in their attempts to cover costs and cause them to actually lose money, while highway safety continues to be a national problem.

As it turns out, the Court of Appeals sided with federal regulators and recently rejected claims by the ATA. The appellate court, which was composed of a three-judge panel, rejected most arguments by the trucking association in favor of the goal of safer roads. The decision also puts an end to the age-old debate over trucker fatigue and its contribution to accidents. This allows the trucking industry to focus more on improving safety among its ranks.

Truckers are now required to take two consecutive nights off. The ATA is not happy about the decision. The organization is frustrated with the court's unlimited deference to the federal government's analysis of the situation, as opposed to its concerns.

The trucking profession is known to cause many on-the-job injuries and deaths. The changes in the law have been weighed against industry costs in health care and the reduction of related accidents. While the trucking industry may incur $18 billion in additional costs from reduced productivity, which the industry estimates to be around 3 percent of total costs, the longer rest periods and redesigned routes should make up for safer roads and fewer payouts to victims of truck collisions.

The new rules are already in effect here in Billings, Montana, and across the country. Lawmakers hope that if truckers get more rest, the number of accidents will decrease. However, for the victims of trucker negligence, filing a claim for damages may be a positive step to their recovery, both physically and financially. These victims may be able to claim financial compensation aimed at the victim's recovery from injuries.

Source: The Columbian," Trucking industry loses challenge to drive-time limits," Tom Schoenberg and Jeff Plungis, Aug. 2, 2013

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