The FMCSA hours-of-service regulations were implemented to combat truckers driving fatigued. These rules dictate the number of hours truckers can drive their vehicles on a daily and weekly basis. Under the FMCSA, commercial operators hauling property must:
- Drive no more than 11 hours in any 14-hour shift
- Take a mandatory ten-hour break following a 14-hour shift
- Take a 30-minute break after eight hours of uninterrupted driving
- Drive no more than 60/70 hours within a 7/8 consecutive day period
Despite these regulations, a survey of tractor-trailer drivers conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) determined that almost three-fourths of drivers polled reported violation of hours-of-service rules. And two-thirds of the drivers reported routinely driving more than the weekly permissible limits. The NCBI survey concluded that the “high prevalence of hours-of-service violations among tractor-trailer drivers is a problem in need of urgent attention.”
While these violations may seem innocent in isolation, widespread disregard for established rules leads to severe, preventable accidents. Truckers and their companies are legally responsible for personal injuries and death caused by violations of driving requirements.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the primary causes of fatigue include:
- Being awake for too many hours or not getting enough sleep over consecutive days.
- Time of day: Your body has a natural wake/sleep cycle that controls when to sleep. The urge to sleep is strongest in the early morning.
- Monotonous and boring tasks or long periods of inactivity.
- Sleep disorders or medications that cause drowsiness.
Truck driver fatigue occurs when truck drivers operate a vehicle without adequate rest. Long-haul trips, where the driver is usually awake for longer periods, account for 65% of all fatal truck crashes. These truckers work long, exhausting hours and are constantly pressured to meet delivery deadlines, leading drivers to operate longer than legally permitted. Additionally, many truckers are paid by the mile, incentivizing them to drive as much as possible, as fast as possible. According to the NCBI survey, one of the primary motivators for FMCSA violations is “economic factors, including tight delivery schedules and low payment rates.” Regardless of the reason, fatigue remains one of the most common causes of truck accidents.
Physiological Effects of Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue severely impacts a motorist’s physical and mental functions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a fatigued driver suffers from the following ailments:
- Slower reaction times
- Poor decision-making
- Impaired vision, including “tunnel vision”
- Increase forgetfulness, including miles traveled and hours worked
Additionally, studies have shown that fatigue causes symptoms similar to intoxication, including slowed reaction times, impaired judgment, coordination problems, and distorted vision.
Preventing Fatigued Driving Accidents
Sadly, more than 750 people die, and over 20,000 are injured yearly in the United States because of truck driver fatigue. These accidents are preventable with proper training and concerted action by the trucking industry, including enforcing hours-of-service requirements, adopting electronic logs, and building more rest areas.
No amount of experience, motivation, or professionalism can overcome a body’s biological need to sleep. Employers and workers are responsible for adhering to federal guidelines designed to prevent fatigue-related crashes and implementing safety training and protocols to ensure drivers respond appropriately to fatigue-related symptoms. Drivers and companies that ignore these responsibilities must be held accountable for the personal injuries and death caused by their actions.
Truck Accident Attorneys Fighting Fatigued Driving
Our truck accident lawyers can investigate actions taken by drivers and employers before an accident to determine if driver fatigue was a contributing factor in a crash. Having experienced attorneys representing you against large trucking companies will ensure that your rights are adequately protected, all wrongdoers are held accountable for their wrongful conduct, and you and your family receive the justice and compensation you deserve.
We fight for clients across Texas. Let us help you win your case by contacting us online and learning why we are trusted by lawyers and clients across the nation.