Fatigued Driving

Truck Accidents Caused by Fatigue

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 13% of commercial truckers involved in an accident are fatigued. Impairment by fatigue reduces reaction time and increases the likelihood of driver error. Commercial vehicle drivers are subject to laws that govern daily and weekly driving limits to help reduce fatigue and protect innocent motorists from preventable crashes. Unfortunately, these rules are often ignored for personal reasons or company pressure. When this happens, the trucking company and driver may be held liable for the personal injuries caused by their negligent actions.

Following a truck accident, it is important to conduct a detailed investigation of the trucker’s driver logs to gain information about the rest the trucker had received prior to the crash. If the driver failed to complete logs as required by law or clearly exceeded the allowable on-duty driving permitted under the FMCSA driving limits, fatigue may have contributed to the accident, and the driver could be liable for negligence. Consulting trained truck accident lawyers with experience identifying signs of fatigue can help you prove fatigue was a contributing cause of your accident and resulting injuries.

Contact our law firm to learn how our truck accident attorneys can help you recover compensation for injuries sustained in a truck crash. 

FREQUENTLY Asked Questions

  • Can commercial truck drivers operate a commercial vehicle while tired?

    Under the FMCSA regulations, a motor carrier cannot require or permit a driver to operate a commercial vehicle if the driver is too tired or sick to drive safely. Commercial drivers and their motor carriers can be held responsible for accidents caused by fatigued driving.

  • What happens if a driver drives beyond the legal limit?

    Commercial truckers are not permitted to drive beyond the allotted time allowed under the FMCSA regulations. The allotted time permitted to each trucker depends on the type of business the trucker is engaged in; all drivers must follow the rules applicable to their situation. A motor carrier cannot permit a driver to operate a commercial vehicle beyond the maximum periods permitted under the law. A driver found to operate a commercial vehicle beyond their allotted time can be cited and fined. Additionally, under civil law, a trucker may be held responsible for accidents and injuries caused by these violations.

  • How do you know how long a truck driver has been on duty?

    Under the FMCSA, truck drivers must record all time spent on duty and provide copies of these records to their motor carrier. Motor carriers are required to retain evidence of their drivers’ driving logs and may be audited by the DOT to ensure compliance with FMCSA rules and regulations.

Hours-of-Service Regulations

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.

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