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Arnold & Itkin LLP Truck Accident Blog2016MarchNot All Truck Drivers Are Protected by Shift Hour Limits

Not All Truck Drivers Are Protected by Shift Hour Limits

What are shift hour limits for truck drivers? These important federal regulations exist to restrict the number of hours a commercial driver may work before taking a mandatory rest period. These regulations are meant to protect both the truck drivers and the other people who they share the road with.

Shift hour regulations play such an important role in public safety that there are current motions in the works to make these regulations even stricter and to enforce more rest time for drivers. In spite of this trend, employers of drivers in the oil and gas industry have been given dispensations that allow them to enforce longer and unsafe shifts for drivers.

What Are the Current Shift Hour Limits for Drivers?

Current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations dictate that commercial drivers must stop driving no more than 14 hours after the start of their work day. Under these regulations, drivers must also take off at least 34 hours after working a total of 60 hours in 7 consecutive days.

However, there is an important caveat for oil and gas industry drivers. These drivers do not have to count time spent waiting at well sites as part of their hours. As a result, industry employers can force drivers to continue working and driving even after they have been on-duty for 20 hours or more!

How Is Abuse of Shift Hour Limits Affecting Oil & Gas Workers?

Examination of the data makes it clear that this dispensation is putting employees in the oil and gas industry at risk. Of the 648 oil field worker deaths that occurred between 2003 and 2008, nearly one third were the result of vehicle accidents, according to statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Disrepair of Oil & Gas Industry Vehicles Endangers Truck Drivers

Compounding the problem for these drivers is the fact that the vehicles they are given to operate are often in terrible repair. In fact, of the 2200 oil and gas industry trucks inspected by the Pennsylvania State Police between 2009 and February of this year (2012), approximately 40% had to be removed from the road because they were no longer in operable condition.

Attempts to Change FMCSA Regulations Failed

In 2010, the federal government proposed changes to FMCSA regulations that would eliminate safety exceptions made for the oil and gas industry. Despite the support of National Transportation Safety Board representatives, the FMCSA listened to the outcry from the oil and gas industry and, in December of 2011, declined to eliminate the exemptions, making the statement that they, “had been in place for nearly 50 years.”

Truck Accident Fatalities are On the Rise

While, overall, the number of Americans killed in vehicle crashes has steadily decreased over the past few years, this does not hold true for truck accidents. According to federal transportation data, the number of deaths resulting from crashes involving large trucks increased by 8.7% between 2009 and 2010. Clearly, more work needs to be done in order to keep all commercial drivers safe from fatigue-related hazards.

Contact a truck accident attorney from Arnold & Itkin today for help after a collision.

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