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Why are federal trucking regulations important in West Virginia?

Driving a commercial vehicle, like a big rig truck, comes with substantial responsibilities. Accordingly, the federal and state governments have passed various pieces of legislation that regulate the operation of these vehicles. For example, federal standards limit the size and weight of these trucks. This is why West Virginia has weighing stations on its highways. But what about other regulations, why are they important?

One of the most contentious federal trucking regulations imposes limits on the number of hours that a trucker can drive in a particular period of time. Under the regulations, which were revised in 2013, the maximum average work week for a truck driver must be 70 hours or less. After reaching that 70 hour mark, drivers must rest from driving for at least 34 consecutive hours. Moreover, those 34 hours of rest must include at least two nights, which are defined as the period between 1:00 and 5:00 a.m.

In addition to the regulations involving the number of work hours, truck drivers have to take at least one 30-minute break in the first eight hours of their shift.

These regulations are critical because truck drivers are often under pressure to transport their cargo from one part of the country to another in as little time as possible. This means that they may be tempted to drive long hours without any rest. Even worse, trucking companies might encourage or even incentivize drivers to stay on the road instead of resting.

Because of trucking regulations, drivers and trucking companies face serious penalties if they fail to appropriately limit the hours that they are on the road. Moreover, ignoring the regulations is evidence of negligence if the driver were to get into an accident.

Lawmakers impose these regulations on driving time in the hopes that they will help reduce truck driver fatigue and the number of truck accidents. Trucks are too dangerous to travel on the roads absent certain operational and safety restrictions.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "Hours of Service," accessed on Sept. 11, 2014

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