Federal hours of service regulations are important because they are designed to save lives. A number of high profile trucking accidents across the country have been a result of fatigued driving. An example of which was the accident last summer involving comedian Tracy Morgan, whose limousine bus was struck from behind by a Wal-Mart truck. It was alleged that the driver had been awake for more than 24 hours before the crash.
If this is proven to be true, it would be considered a violation of federal hours of service rules, which limits the number of hours a truck driver can be behind the wheel each day, as well as the number of hours a driver can work each week. However, if a rider to a new transportation bill is approved, the limits on hours of service caps could increase.
Essentially, the 70 hour work week limit could be increased to 82 hours per week. While this may be a welcome sign from the trucking industry, safety advocates may see it as an assault on highway safety. Nevertheless, truck drivers have a continuing legal duty to use reasonable care while behind the wheel. Part of this duty includes having sufficient rest in order to properly operate such a large vehicle and to react quickly (and appropriately) to hazards.
If a driver fails to use such care (by not getting enough rest) and such a failure results in an accident, the driver (and possibly the trucking company) could be held liable.