Lack of quality sleep or not getting enough sleep leads to fatigue, and fatigue, in turn, impairs your driving ability no different from being intoxicated from alcohol.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a survey in the United States found that 37 percent of workers received less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours of sleep daily. The CDC also estimates that at least one in 25 drivers has fallen asleep while driving, causing an estimated 72,000 accidents and 41,000 injuries.
One of the leading groups at a high risk of driving while fatigued is commercial drivers, especially those who drive big cargo-hauling trucks. According to a study published in the journal Safety and Health at Work, more than half of the professional truck drivers surveyed said they had experienced sleepiness, nodded off, or even altogether dozed while driving an average of 3.8 times in one month.
Of these drivers, more than 53 percent said they experienced a near-miss of accident due to fatigued driving, and nearly one-fifth of the respondents admitted that they were involved in an accident caused by their being sleepy.
These professional drivers are susceptible to sleep deprivation because of the nature of their work that requires that they drive these big trucks long distances, often at night and across endless highways.
When combined, these factors attribute to drowsy or fatigued driving with increased accidents involving these professional truckers.
Truck driver fatigue and drowsiness are one of the leading causes of truck accidents on the road. At the same time, injuries caused by fatigued or drowsy drivers can be very serious, causing serious damages, injury, or even death.
Federal Regulations on Truck Driver Fatigue
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) promulgated new regulations in recent years to improve truck safety on the road. The enforcement of these regulations to reduce driver fatigue. Truck drivers are now allowed to work a maximum of seventy hours a week only and no more until they have the required rest time before working again.
Rest is not optional as truck drivers are also required and must take a thirty-four-hour rest break after they have been on the road driving for seventy hours over seven days. The regulations provide that drivers take rest breaks when the body needs to sleep the most. For most truck drivers, that’s from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Unfortunately, drivers do not always follow these regulations. Sometimes the trucking company pressures them to meet a deadline. Or drivers feel financial pressure to drive more than the maximum hours allowed under these regulations or without the required rest time. Drivers and their employers or distributors who violate these rules may be liable for any bodily injuries, property damage, or death caused by an auto accident involving a fatigued truck driver.
Because driver fatigue is a major factor in many truck crashes, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations limit the number of hours truckers can drive without a break. FMCSA regulations state that a driver is permitted a period of 14 consecutive hours, in which they may drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 hours or more. Drivers are not permitted to drive for more than eight hours without a 30-minute break. In addition, drivers are not allowed to drive more than 60 hours every seven days or 70 hours every eight days, depending on the specifics of their schedules.
Proving Accident Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue
There are several pieces of evidence a personal injury attorney can obtain to prove driver fatigue cases, and these include:
- Police report:Police departments train their officers to watch out for and determine when someone is fatigued or sleep-deprived. Observations by a police officer in a report noting things such as bloodshot eyes, visible exhaustion, or a statement the truck driver said admitting they were tired can all assist your lawyer in establishing driver fatigue as what caused the accident.
- Time of day:The time of day when an accident occurs is a good indicator that driver fatigue played a role in an accident. Drivers who are on the road driving their trucks between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. are more likely to have been on the road driving throughout the night, and possibly without required breaks.
- Logbooks and billed hours:Federal law requires that 2000 and later model year commercial trucks should have Electronic Logging Devices (ELD). If a truck does not have this device, then drivers are required to keep handwritten logbooks. These logbooks keep track of how many hours a driver has been driving and if they have taken the required breaks. A skilled lawyer can compare this information to the number of hours billed by the driver to determine how long they have been driving. If the number of hours billed is more than the number of hours permissible under the law, then this may be enough to legally establish driver fatigue.
Technology to analyze a truck’s GPS history and examining a driver’s receipts for purchases and paying tolls can also provide a timeline a lawyer can use to establish exactly where and what time a truck driver was on the road. Also, some modern trucks have black boxes, just like airplanes do. A lawyer can analyze the data they recorded to produce evidence of driver fatigue and other bad driving behaviors.
In sum, an experienced lawyer can:
- Gather evidence from all possible sources, including police records
- Recreate the accident scene to show how it played out
- Fully inspect the truck for evidence
- Collect truck maintenance records
- Analyze driver logs
Contact a Skilled Truck Accident Lawyer
Making the case to obtain compensation for medical bills, pain, and suffering
If you have suffered an injury because of an accident involving a truck driver, contact a truck accident lawyer who can provide these services and more.