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Trucking industry challenge to hours of service changes unsuccessful

On July 1 of this year, new hours of service requirements, developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, went into effect. These new regulations, which specific the amount of time that commercial truck drivers can spend behind the wheel at any given time, were designed specifically to prevent truck driver fatigue, identified by the FMCSA as a leading cause of truck accidents.

Although the new hours of service regulations were praised by many traffic safety experts, they proved far less popular with those in the trucking industry, including both trucking companies and truck drivers themselves. After failing to stall the FMCSA’s rulemaking process over the course of many months, one trucking industry group filed suit against the DOT in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. Recently, a three judge panel rejected this final challenge, removing the last hurdle to the full implementation of the new hours of service rules.

The reason that these new hours of service rules were so unpopular among trucking companies and truck drivers was fear that they would impact the industry’s bottom line. The rules specifically require drivers to take a break of at least 30 minutes during their first eight hours of driving each day and require them to have a 34-hour rest period each week. Trucking companies believe that this will impact their ability to deliver goods according to schedule, which in turn will cost them money. Truck drivers have also expressed concern that he weekly on-duty limit will prevent them from maintaining their current rate of pay.

At the heart of the recent suit brought by the American Trucking Associations, Incorporated was the process employed by the DOT in setting the requirements of the regulations. The ATA argued that regulators’ decisions were arbitrary and were not supported by adequate scientific evidence. The Court of Appeals disagreed, however, and said that the DOT and FMCSA deserved deference in setting regulations for the trucking industry.

This recent ruling is significant because it ends a period of nearly 14 years of disagreement between the trucking industry and the federal government regarding restrictions on trucker drive time. Although the industry is convinced that these new rules will simply increase costs without impacting safety, traffic experts are waiting to see whether these restrictions will lead to fewer truck accidents in the U.S. Only time will tell, but many think they are a step in the right direction.

Verdicts & Settlements

36-year-old laborer for landscaping company fractured wrist when fellow employee hit him with truck. Claimant received in excess of $30,000 in workers’ compensation benefits for total disability and medical expenses and settled with automobile insurance company for fellow employee for $95,000.

1989 workers’ compensation claim settled for $125,000. Claimant originally sustained a low back injury when she slipped and fell at local grocery store resulting in low back surgery in 1989. Several years later, claimant exacerbated her low back injury. Claim was reopened and settled with carrier for $125,000 in 2006.

47-year-old deli clerk sustained low back injuries at work for local supermarket. Carrier originally denied claim on the grounds that the injury was pre-existing. After formal workers’ compensation hearing carrier accepted claim and paid all total disability benefits and medical expenses in excess of $100,000. Case then settled for an additional $100,000 after injured person received a permanent disability rating.

34-year-old male roofer sustained multiple injuries to his shoulder, neck, back and hip when he fell from roof during work. Claimant was provided workers’ compensation benefits in excess of $100,000 and settled remaining claims for an additional $55,000.

40-year-old male working for cleaning company sustained neck and low back injuries when he fell on defective staircase while cleaning local museum. Claimant recovered over $95,000 in workers’ compensation benefits and resolved claim against museum for $85,000.

26-year-old laborer sustained fractured foot when a cast iron pipe was dropped on his foot. Employer and workers’ compensation carrier denied claim on basis that injured worker was an independent contractor. After a series of informal and formal workers’ compensation hearings, carrier conceded that claimant was an employee and settled case for $85,000.

24-year-old waitress sustained back injury while working at Outback Steak House. Workers’ compensation insurance company initially denied the claim. After a series of informal hearings, carrier accepted claim paying medical expenses and total disability benefits. In addition to those benefits paid, claim settled for an additional $75,000.

Delivery truck driver sustained right wrist fracture in rear-end motor vehicle accident while in the course of his employment. Claimant recovered in excess of $40,000 in workers’ compensation benefits for medical expenses and total disability benefits. Claimant settled case against at-fault driver for $105,000.

22-year-old male working as stocking clerk at “big box” retailer sustained herniated disc in low back. Workers’ compensation carrier refused to accept the claim. After formal workers’ compensation, hearing commissioner ordered carrier to pay over $35,000 in past total disability benefits and pay for surgery and all related medical expenses. Case settled for an additional $35,000 for a total recovery in excess of $100,000.

Rear-end collision on entrance ramp to Merritt Parkway resulting in 49-year-old woman sustaining mid-back injury. Case settled at mediation after filing suit for $300,000.

28-year-old passenger sustained multiple herniated discs in automobile accident in New York state. New York no-fault carrier paid for extended period of disability from work and medical expenses, including expenses for surgery. Case settled against driver of vehicle for $300,000 policy limits shortly after filing suit.

54-year-old man sustains shoulder injury when hit from behind by uninsured motorist on New Jersey Turnpike. Case settled for $135,000 prior to trial.

CT Transit bus driver sustained torn meniscus in collision with another vehicle. Claims made against at-fault driver, workers’ compensation carrier and client’s underinsured motorist policy. All claims settle for a recovery in excess of $100,000.

68-year-old woman sustained neck and back injuries in rear-end collision and required extended course physical therapy, but was not a surgical candidate. Case settled for $100,000 prior to filing suit.

34-year-old woman sustained concussion and neck and back injuries in hit-and-run accident on a New York highway. Claimant settled uninsured motorist claim for her $100,000 policy limits.

80-year-old woman sustained right foot fracture when her foot was run over in a parking lot. Case settled for at-fault driver’s policy limit of $100,000 prior to filing suit.

38-year-old nanny sustained right femur fracture when she fell down defective stairs in home of her employer’s neighbor. All medical expenses and lost wages reimbursed and case settled for an additional $150,000.

Claim against landlord for defective staircase in multi-family rental house. Claimant sustained a right femur fracture. Case settled for $125,000 prior to filing suit.

$95,000 judgment obtained against bar and nightclub for assault by one of its patrons against another patron.

47-year-old woman sustained a broken left wrist when she fell from porch stairs at house she was renting. Case settled for $95,000 shortly before trial.

26-year-old male bitten on leg by German shepherd. Claim against dog owner settled for $65,000 plus payment of all medical expenses.