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Regulators struggle to combat truck driver fatigue

Truck drivers are often under a lot of pressure from their employers to get their goods from one place to other in a short amount of time. To meet these deadlines, truckers sometimes have to spend long hours behind the wheel without getting enough rest. And that means dangerously fatigued truck drivers may be on Wisconsin roads, perhaps even causing truck accidents.

New federal regulations are intended to make sure that drivers get enough rest between shifts. In the trucking industry, these regulations are known as Hours of Service, and both drivers and employers are still in the process of modifying their schedules to adapt to them.

Recently there was a setback in another proposal intended to reduce the hazards of truck driver fatigue

Regulators announced plans to require trucking companies to test their drivers for a common sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea. This disorder affects a person's breathing during sleep, leading to frequent interruptions of sleep. Those who have sleep apnea often get up in the morning without having had adequate rest.

The trucking industry balked at the idea that it should test drivers for sleep apnea. Industry spokespeople have said the tests alone will cost $1 billion or more. Recently, Congress and President Obama passed a law that instructs regulators to conduct formal rulemaking procedures before imposing these regulations.

The sleep apnea tests still may become mandatory one day, but until that happens, truck driver fatigue remains a hazard on Wisconsin roads. When others have been injured in an accident caused by a fatigued or negligent truck driver, the injured may be left with huge medical expenses and other damages. The injured may be compensated for these damages through a personal injury lawsuit. In many cases, trucking companies, as well as the drivers, may be held liable for these damages. That's especially true when the company has forced a driver out on the road without adequate rest.

Source: Bloomberg Law, "Obama signs bill for DOT to use rulemaking process to require driver sleep apnea tests," Michael Rose, Oct. 18, 2013

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