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Federal regulations to prevent truck driver fatigue: 3 things to know

Regardless of what they are hauling, semi-trucks can pose severe threats to the other drivers on the road. Even empty, semis are heavy and awkward and can do substantial damage in a collision.

Driving a semi requires focus and attention to detail. Large trucks can be challenging to handle and slow to maneuver. It is crucial that truck drivers are alert enough to focus on everything that is happening on the road.

Here are three things to know about why drivers are so tired, and the rules meant to protect everyone on the road.

Truckers are under constant time pressure.

There is a lot of demand for goods to get across the country, and we depend on people like truckers to get everything from clothing to chemicals from one place to another. Trucks can get to places that trains and other transportation methods cannot.

With so many products and limited resources to get them where they need to be, truckers face a lot of pressure to put in a lot of time on the road. Drivers face more stress since they are often paid by the mile, not the time they spend on the road. That means that getting stuck in traffic can cause a driver's profits to plummet. To make up for the lost time, some drivers will put in more hours on the road.

There are federal rules are in place to deter drowsy truck driving.

Over the years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created rules for drivers to help them get the rest they need to be safe on the road. The rules tell drivers how long they can be on the road without a break and limit the number of hours a trucker can work in a week.

Initially, drivers showed that they were following the rules with paper log books. The books caused problems, though, since some truckers would record the numbers the "right" numbers so they could keep driving.

Recently, trucking companies had to install electronic systems in their trucks to prevent drivers from driving too much at one time. These systems do help to cut down on fatigued driving. As we explained in a previous post, however, there are many exceptions to the rules.

Federal rules distinguish between property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers.

Understandably, the driving limits for passenger-carrying drivers are stricter than for property-carrying drivers. For example, passenger-carrying drivers have a 10-hour driving limit after 8 consecutive hours off duty. For property-carrying drivers, the limit is 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.

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