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Hours of Service Exemptions for Fireworks Truck Drivers Spark Accident Fears

Strict federal controls on the lengths of working days for truckers hauling fireworks for July 4th celebrations have been temporarily lifted for 2011 amid concerns that some localities would miss out on their fIndependence Day displays if the regulations were enforced. The relaxation of hours-of-operation rules raises safety concerns.

"The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted an exemption to hours-of-service rules for members of the American Pyrotechnics Association, covering 3,000 commercial drivers and about 50 companies carrying an estimated 10 million pounds of fireworks across the country," reported.

Although truck drivers must stick to daily driving limits, they will be able to exclude rest or off-duty periods that would normally count against their 14-hour workday.
This will mean longer working days for truckers at a time when almost 40 million drivers take to America's roads, the American Automobile Association pointed out.

"You've already got more people on the roadways, so it's already more dangerous," AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Martha Meade told WAVY-TV. "Then you exempt drivers who have explosives in the back of their truck, and it's almost like you can see the headlines now."

Having reported on a number of accidents caused by fatigued drivers in recent weeks, our
Virginia (VA) trucking accidents attorneys are concerned about this fireworks hauler exemption. For one thing, the National Transportation Safety Board recently cited driver fatigue on its new list of priorities to improve safety.

According to a 2006 FMCSA report, about 13 percent of truck accidents are caused by fatigue. However, a recent survey found as many as 36 percent of drivers in America admit to falling asleep behind the wheel of a car.

In 2009 we noted a truck accident on I-495 in Delaware that revealed a violation of federal record-keeping for truckers. Sadly these violations are all too common. Federal law requires that truckers document the hours they drive and remain within a certain number each day in order to prevent tiredness and poor driving.

We noted that a long-distance trucker may drive for 11 hours and work for up to 14 hours after a period of 10 hours off. Normally the driver cannot get behind the wheel of a truck after having worked for 60 hours in the past 7 days or 70 hours in the past 8 days unless he or she has taken at least 34 consecutive hours off.


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