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Truckers: Driving and sleep

Truck drivers have an important role in the United States. Whether making long treks across the country, or short trips within the state, trucks are one of the main ways goods move around the nation. In the trucking world, minutes and hours matter and a late delivery is to be avoided even if it takes a personal toll. This leads many truck drivers to drive for extended periods without sleep attempting to make their deadline. Such behavior is one of the main causes of accidents and deaths on U.S. highways.

Federal law regulates many aspects of trucker behavior, although states can and do have state and local rules and regulations regarding the truck drivers. One of the most debated and violated federal regulations is the timing and amount of sleep truckers must have before taking to the roads.

Driver fatigue is the leading cause of accidents and death on U.S. highways. With over 30,000 annual deaths on U.S. highways, keeping truck drivers awake and alert is a monumental concern. To this end, the Department of Transportation enacted various rules and regulations governing when a trucker can drive and for how long. Truck drivers are limited to a maximum work week of 70 hours, and are legally required to take a 34 hour break if they reach their maximum. Truckers are only allowed to drive 11 hours a day during any 14 hour period.

Violating the rules can lead to fines and even criminal action if the driver injured or killed another. But keeping track of drivers is difficult, as paper logs can be altered, and most people seek to avoid liability for their actions. While federal regulators are pondering imposing rules requiring electronic monitoring of truckers, the outcome of highly publicized cases such as the truck accident involving comedian Tracey Morgan may prompt swifter action.

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