The Impact Of Driver Fatigue On Trucking Accidents

Truck accidents occur on a daily basis across the United States. When these accidents do occur, statistics tell us that occupants of the other vehicle are the most likely to be injured. This should come as no surprise, considering the massive size and force of a commercial truck. When fully loaded, these vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.

One of the most common causes of truck crashes is fatigue. Truckers are often expected to travel long distances in a short period of time. Drivers can be gone for weeks at a time and may not always get proper rest while on their routes. When this fatigue is so serious that it interferes with safe operation, the possibility of a crash increases. A truck driver who does not have adequate control of their vehicle creates a major hazard for all other innocent motorists on the road.

If you or a loved one were involved in a crash with a fatigued truck driver, you have legal rights. Contact one of our attorneys at Burg Simpson to see how we can help with your situation.

Truck Driver Fatigue  The Impact Of Driver Fatigue On Trucking Accidents

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration defines fatigue as any physical or mental exertion that impairs driving performance. According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, about 13% of all commercial motor vehicle crashes involved a fatigued truck driver. There are several potential causes of driver fatigue, including:

  • Lack of sleep or poor sleep
  • Side effects of medication
  • Medical conditions
  • Physical strain
  • Impairment from drugs or alcohol

Regardless of the cause, the consequences can be deadly. Nearly 5,000 people are killed every year in American truck accidents, with fatigue being one of the leading causes of these collisions. Truck driver fatigue must be carefully investigated as a potential cause whenever a commercial has been involved in a crash.

FMCSA Hours of Service Restrictions

In order to combat the potential for fatigued drivers, the FMCSA has enacted rules that limit a truck driver’s time on the road. Some of the notable rules are as follows:

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit: Drivers may only drive for a total of 11 hours during a 14-hour shift
  • 10 Hours Off Duty: Following a maximum 11-hour shift, drivers must have ten consecutive hours off duty
  • 30-Minute Breaks:  After driving for a total of 8 hours, consecutive or non-consecutive, truckers must take a mandatory 30-minute break
  • 60/70 Hour Limit: Drivers may not be on duty for more than 60 hours in a consecutive 7-day period or more than 70 hours in a consecutive 8-day period. At the end of the period, a driver must take 34 consecutive hours off duty before they can return to the road
  • Poor or Adverse Driving Conditions: The 11-hour driving window may be extended up to 2 hours when a driver encounters adverse weather
  • Sleeping: A driver may break up the required 10-hour off-duty period if they spend at least seven consecutive hours in the truck’s sleeper berth during one period and at least two consecutive hours in the berth during the other period.

Beginning in 2018, the FMCSA enacted a rule that required all commercial trucks to be equipped with an electronic logging device in order to track the hours of service requirements. All commercial trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds and all trucks transporting hazardous materials must have these devices implemented in the truck and available for inspection by authorities.

Service Hour Rule Violations

Unfortunately, not all trucking companies and truckers follow the rules. Some will try to skirt or get around the hours of service regulations in various ways. The hours of service rules can be enforced by law enforcement or federal authorities. If truckers are caught violating the rules, they can face several penalties, including:

  • Fines of up to $15,000
  • Citations or tickets issued by local law enforcement
  • Reduction of scores maintained by the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program.
  • Downgraded safety ratings
  • Forced shutdown by federal authorities after multiple violations

The potential penalties are harsh and, in most cases, are enough of a deterrent to drivers and companies violating the law. However, there are still instances where lawbreaking occurs anyway.

The Effect of Fatigue on Truck Accidents

Drowsy driving and fatigued driving impair a driver’s response time. Truckers may not be alerted to potential hazards as quickly as they would otherwise be. When driving at night or in adverse weather conditions, truckers must be fully alert and aware of their surroundings. Among other things, truck driver fatigue can cause:

  • Slow reaction to pedestrians and objects on the road
  • Lane drifting
  • Brief episodes of falling asleep at the wheel
  • Improper lane changes
  • Forgetfulness
  • Slow braking or stopping

All of the above actions place both the trucker and other motorists at great risk of being injured in a collision. Even a low-speed truck crash has great potential to cause serious and deadly harm. An alert and aware truck driver is far less likely than a fatigued truck driver to cause a major crash.

Contact a National Truck Crash Lawyer

Truck driver fatigue continues to play a major role in truck accidents across the United States. When an accident occurs, it must be carefully investigated by authorities in order to determine the cause. If fatigue played a role, our national truck accident lawyers at Burg Simpson are prepared to jump into action. We can verify if the driver violated national safety standards prior to the accident. Our attorneys will obtain important pieces of evidence, such as the driving log and internal company documents, in order to determine how and why the driver was fatigued. Using this information, we will prepare a compelling case on your behalf.

Our firm knows and understands what you are going through during this difficult time. Our United States truck accident attorneys have years of experience dealing with fatigued and drowsy driving crashes. We offer free consultations and case evaluations for all potential and prospective clients. We do not collect a fee unless we win your case. To schedule your appointment with one of our attorneys, please reach out to us using our online intake form or give us a call at (866) 695-1750.

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