Folks in Billings may have been following some of the news reports related to the tragic December 30 tour bus crash that killed nine passengers. As with any commercial truck accident, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration undertook an investigation to determine whether driver conduct or safety issues played a role in the accident. Although authorities have not yet released any conclusions about what caused the accident, a report from the ongoing investigation has put the bus driver on the defensive.

The investigation so far has led to a determination that the bus driver violated hours of service regulations intended to reduce the risk of driver fatigue. Federal law prohibits a commercial driver from exceeding 70 hours behind the wheel in any eight day period. The FMCSA investigation concluded that the bus driver had exceeded that limit by 22 hours.

The findings from the investigation prompted the attorney representing the bus company to question the accuracy of the federal report. He asserts that the driver had seven and a half hours of sleep before the bus departed on the day of the crash. The attorney points to black ice as a significant factor in the crash that cost nine lives and injured 38 people, including the bus driver.

Truck driver fatigue has been an ongoing concern that has garnered more attention in recent years and led to an uptick in truck driver safety regulation and enforcement efforts. The increased attention may be helping to decrease the incidence of truck accidents, but no deterrent can be 100 percent effective in promoting compliance with the law.

When a truck accident leads to injury or death, a thorough investigation of the trucking company and the driver’s operating practices can be just as important as an investigation of the accident scene. Montana residents who are injured by a negligent truck driver may benefit from consulting an experienced accident attorney familiar with federal regulations in order to ensure that they receive fair compensation for their injuries and damages.

Source: The Seattle Times, “Lawyer: Driver in fatal Ore. bus crash was rested,” Manuel Valdes, Jan. 9, 2013