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Modification to federal rest rules on the horizon

Many truck drivers and drivers of other commercial vehicles in Washington are subject to what are officially called the Hours of Service Regulations, but which commonly get referred to as the federal rest rules. The goal of these regulations is to prevent fatigued truck driving by requiring truckers subject to these rules to take an extended rest period, 10 hours off duty, from time to time.

The goal of this extended rest period is to give a trucker the opportunity to sleep. The rest rules also require truck drivers to take a 34-hour break after driving a certain number of hours each week.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, has recently proposed to modify the rest rules somewhat. For instance, under the new rules, drivers would be allowed to use a break-time period of 30 minutes to pause their 14-hour driving window. Currently, after 14 hours on duty, a trucker must stop for 10 hours even if much of their time on duty did not involve driving.

While some might hail the changes in the rest rules as a way of giving truckers some additional flexibility in scheduling, others could see these changes as a rollback that, ultimately, will increase the risk of truck driver fatigue. The questions of whether a trucker followed the rest rules is often critically important to the investigation of trucking accident. After all, if it turns out that a trucker did not follow these rules, and there is some reason to believe fatigued truck driving contributed to the accident, then the violation can be used to help a victim receive compensation.

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