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The Danger of Fatigued Commercial Drivers

Cranwell & Moore P.L.C. Feb. 14, 2023

Even though many drivers try to fight through it, being tired on the road is a danger. The consequences of fatigued driving are multiplied when commercial truck drivers stay behind the wheel when they should instead take a break. A commercial bus accident that occurred in Virginia over the summer shows what can happen when a commercial driver is too tired to drive.

This past June, a commercial bus traveling between Greensboro, North Carolina and New York City rolled over on the interstate near Bowling Green, Virginia. The majority of the 57 passengers on the bus were injured, as was the driver. The bus was on an overnight schedule and the driver overturned the bus around 5:00 in the morning. When interviewed by Virginia State Police, the bus driver explained the bus rolled over because he was fatigued. This accident and other deadly commercial bus accidents that also occurred in the summer and the fall initiated a conversation about more stringent time-off requirements for commercial bus drivers.

Currently, commercial bus drivers are allowed to drive more hours within a shift than commercial truck drivers, even though commercial bus drivers are responsible for the safety of passengers and commercial truck drivers are responsible for cargo. Truck drivers are required to take a 10-hour break between shifts and cannot drive more than 11 hours in a 14-hour shift. In comparison, commercial bus drivers are required to take an eight-hour break after driving 10 hours in a 15 hour shift. The interstate bus crash in Virginia and others that occurred last year along the East Coast gave impetus to some Congressional lawmakers to question the discrepancy.

Commercial bus drivers were exempted from a rule change for commercial drivers in 2003 that changed the amount of time commercial drivers were required to take off. The rule did not apply to bus drivers because the commercial bus industry argued it would be too costly to enact.

Even though the rule change has reduced commercial truck crashes and driver injuries, the rule still does not apply to commercial bus drivers. Commenting on the issue, the president of one commercial bus trade group said that since bus drivers complete more stops than truck drivers they have a greater chance to rest in a given workday.

As of publication, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration still had not decided whether or not to update the rule.

If you or a loved one has been in a car accident related to a commercial driver in Virginia, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your legal options.