Safety Concerns Prompt Federal Changes for Truckers

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Drowsy driving has contributed to thousands of deaths in the last decade. That's why the federal Department of Transportation redesigned rules for long haul truck drivers, to keep all of us safer on the road.

The National Transportation Safety Board reports that between 2000 and 2010, more than 11,000 fatal crashes were attributed to drivers who hadn't had enough sleep before getting in their vehicle. Starting on July 1st, truckers who drive rigs heavier than 10,000 pounds have new rules to follow. They'll only be allowed to drive 70 hours a week, instead of the current 82. The new rules include mandatory breaks; drivers have to rest for 30 minutes after driving for eight consecutive hours. Plus two rest periods must be taken between one and five am. Long haul truckers aren't the only culprits when it comes to drowsy driving, this will hopefully cut down on their involvement.

“The folks that abuse the system, that are not following the hours of service, these are the folks that are usually involved in these accidents. The body needs rest and if you try to use coffee, use a drug, that stuff is going to catch up with you and before you know it, you're driving off the road,” says Mark Sandoval, the coordinator of the truck driver training program at Rock Valley College.

Drivers will be allowed to drive 11 hours in a row, quite a long work day, but only if they'd been off duty for 10 straight hours. Companies that violate the new rules could face an $11,000. Drivers themselves could have to pay civil penalties of more than $2,500.

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