Riding alongside trucks, tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers has become the norm on our nation’s roads. Truck drivers navigate through congested metro areas, or travel long stretches of straight highway to arrive at their destination safely and with their shipments intact. In order to do that, truck drivers must be able to stop and rest as needed, something required by law. The problem is many truck drivers are having a difficult time finding a place to take that mandated rest.
In 2013, regulation changes were made for certain groups of commercial drivers. A 30-minute break is required after eight straight hours of driving. Only 11 hours of driving can occur in a 14 hour period. When that is complied with, drivers still must take 10 consecutive hours of rest before they can get back behind the wheel. This was put into place in order to reduce the risk of an accident due to driver fatigue. Where these drivers are supposed to take a break is an ongoing concern for the trucking industry, residential communities and other motorists.
The Mid-Atlantic States and the Northeast are home to some of the most crowded highways and interstates for trucks. A study released last year by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) showed New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and Maryland among the states truck drivers had the most trouble finding safe places to rest due to a lack of available parking. In northern New Jersey, where two major interstates intersect with a popular local highway, many truck drivers have been forced to pull onto the shoulder of the road or an exit ramp for their 30-minute rest. This can be a potential disaster for other drivers who do not realize the truck is stationary, causing a major accident. Overall, 75% of truck drivers experience problems locating safe parking on a regular basis. That number jumps to 90% at night.
Sometimes truck drivers will stop in the parking lot of abandoned buildings, which can put the them in physical danger. In 2009, a 35-year-old truck driver’s only option was to rest at an abandoned gas station in South Carolina. He was robbed of $7 before being fatally shot. This led Congress to pass Jason’s Law, so federal money could be allocated to studying parking issues and improve areas on national highways. FHWA’s study released in 2015 was the result of Jason’s Law. From 2010 through 2014, there were 40 truck drivers killed on the job.
There are a number of reasons why new, safe parking areas have not been built. For one, many people do not want large tractor-trailers in their neighborhood on a nightly basis. In the Bronx, where three major interstates meet, one community has set fines up to $515 for truckers who park overnight on local streets. Developers often encounter zoning or environmental obstacles, while sometimes it just comes down to money.
Truck drivers are essential in keeping our economy running, yet every day they face problems just trying to do their job and follow the law. If it is a choice between stopping on the side of the road or to continue driving while drowsy and past their limit, what are they to do? If you are a truck driver and were injured in an accident or know someone injured in a truck accident, contact the skilled and experienced attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., to help you through this difficult time.