Accidents Caused By Truck Driver Fatigue

If you have ever taken a road trip, you know that driving for long distances and extended periods of time can be exhausting and monotonous. While long trips in the car are not routine for most people, truck drivers have to deal with this type of stress and boredom every day. In addition to this strain, truckers often face pressure to travel as many miles as possible to deliver their loads on time. This combination of stress, fatigue, and boredom often makes tired truck drivers the most dangerous people on the road.

Tired Drivers Could Be Breaking the Law

State and federal laws limit how many hours per day a trucker can drive. Nevertheless, many drivers and trucking companies skirt these rules, and drive above and beyond the what the law allows. Most truck drivers are paid per mile that they drive, so there is usually an incentive for drivers to spend extra time behind the wheel to make more money.

Current federal regulations created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limit drivers to a maximum of 11 hours of driving per day, after which they must take a ten-hour break. In any seven-day period, drivers cannot be on the road for more than 70 hours. After this 70-hour week, the drivers are required to rest for at least 34 hours.

While the law limits truck driver hours, surveys of drivers across the country have consistently found that a large number are staying on the road for longer than the rules allow. State and federal law require truckers to keep track of the hours that they are on- and off-duty every day. In the past, these records were physically written down by drivers in a paper log book, which could be easily altered or forged to reflect hours of service within the rules. Drivers often kept two sets of records: one for inspection by the police or transport authorities, and one that reflected their actual hours.

Fortunately, this practice is becoming less commonplace as technology in vehicles advances. Many commercial trucks now come equipped (or are retrofitted) with Electronic Logging Devices, or ELDs. An ELD automatically records when the truck is moving or at rest, requiring little input from the driver to record his or her hours. These devices are also less susceptible to alterations that would allow the driver to exceed the hours of service limits.

Hours-of-Service Limits May Not Be Enough

Even truck drivers who carefully follow hours-of-service rules may still be susceptible to excessive fatigue. 11 hours of driving in a single day, or 60-70 hours of driving during the course of a week is enough to make even the best drivers tired and unfocused.

On top of the strain that a full day of driving places on the body, many truck drivers face physical problems that can ruin their ability to recover from the day with a good night’s sleep. The FMCSA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report that approximately 2/3 of all truck drivers struggle with obesity. Obesity in itself affects sleep quality, and also makes a driver much more susceptible to conditions like sleep apnea. Since 2008, the FMCSA and the NTSB have been working to teach truck drivers and trucking companies about the dangers of sleep apnea, and have been urging drivers to get themselves tested.

Finally, the 11-hour limits set by the FMCSA have several exceptions. Drivers in certain states, certain industries, and those who drive at specific times or in certain locations are allowed to exceed the 11 hours limit. In some cases, drivers can be on the road for upwards of 15 or 16 hours legally, or may not be required to keep a log of their driving time at all.

Fatigued Drivers Are Dangerous

Tired drivers are not safe drivers. Fatigue can cause a person to become inattentive, fail to observe obstacles in the road, or under- or overreact to changing road conditions. Worse still, excessive fatigue can cause drivers to fall asleep at the wheel and endanger everyone around them.

Fatigue in the trucking industry is such a pervasive problem that the NTSB estimates that it is a factor in 30-40% of all truck accidents. When a tired trucker causes an accident it can be devastating for the other people involved. Large semi-trucks may weigh tens of thousands of pounds and a collision with a passenger car often causes catastrophic injuries.

If you were injured in a truck accident, the experienced truck accident lawyers at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. can help. Our personal injury attorneys will investigate the causes of your accident, including the possibility of trucker fatigue, and will help you understand your rights and legal options. To schedule a free consultation, contact our office today by calling (877) 475-2905.

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