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Possible changes loom to rule enacted to reduce trucker fatigue

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The “restart rule” is intended to reduce the number of fatigue-related crashes involving commercial trucks on California and U.S. roadways, but it may not make its way through the coming year. Per Safety + Health, safety advocates are speaking out in opposition of an Omnibus appropriations bill that has the capacity to eliminate the rule’s mandated breaks and likely increase trucker-involved, fatigue-related accidents as a result.

When it first took effect in 2011, the restart rule, which mandates that truckers take 34-hour breaks once a week, including two shifts within early-morning hours, came about following considerable research by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The organization considered the effectiveness of previous rules, 80 data sources and tens of thousands of docket comments in developing the restart rule, none of which has been done, opponents point out, for the possible upcoming rule change.

Despite this lack of due diligence, information is readily available about the role fatigue plays in many commercial trucker-involved crashes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that being awake for 18 consecutive hours has the same effect on a driver as a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level. Furthermore, one study indicated that fatigue factored into 13 percent of all truck-involved accidents.

Regardless of whether it results from a grueling schedule, a lack of sleep or mental or physical overexertion, truck driver fatigue poses very serious risks for American motorists. Truck drivers can do their part to reduce the risk by avoiding certain medications, taking regular driving breaks and maximizing sleep to the fullest extent possible. 

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