Truck Driver Fatigue

Truck driver fatigue is recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as one of the most frequently cited causes of highway accidents. While not all drivers will suffer from driver fatigue, most drivers will encounter a fatigued truck driver at some time.

Lack of sleep, extended driving hours, health or physical issues, or a combination of these factors may cause a truck driver to be fatigued while driving. Truck drivers today tend to be older and with the job, sitting for hours at a time leads to back issues, overweight and health problems. One health problem that seems to afflict over-the-road truck drivers at a higher than the average person rate, is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea would also cause a truck driver to be tired because of restless sleep patterns. If the sleep apnea is not recognized and treated, truck drivers would tend to be one who falls asleep at the wheel when fatigued. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes a person’s breathing to be paused or stopped involuntarily during sleep. Some with sleep apnea tend to snore, but the real issue is breathing, that can intermittently stop and then start. It all leads to disruptive and unrestful sleep. Truckers need to be refreshed and awake when driving.

With the number of truck driver fatigue related accidents rising, government agencies and the public at large has given the issue more attention in recent years. Exhausted drivers are less likely to react quickly to sudden road changes, road construction and weather conditions. Fatigued truck drivers are also more prone to accidents with other vehicles because of the size of their vehicles and the loads they are carrying.

Many federal rules regulate commercial drivers driving while impaired or fatigued. It is well-noted that every year, truck crashes kill 5,000 people and injure 150,000 others on the nation’s highway. Large trucks are involved in many of these crashes, some of which include multiple vehicles and fatalities.

Under federal law, a driver of a commercial motor vehicle may drive no more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. These hours are reduced for any driver carrying passengers to no more than 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty. A new law is being proposed that would require a longer rest for commercial truck drivers. The other issue to be sorted out is what is truck driver’s rest? Does it mean that the driver must sleep?

Another important issue to consider is the time of day. Most fatigue related truck accidents happened at night, between midnight and dawn. Long hours on dark highways can be very dangerous. In fact, according to studies, the time of day was a better predictor of decreased driving performance than the hours of service.

Sleep is really the only way to avoid truck driver fatigue. Although drivers are motivated to drive as many miles as possible, given the likelihood of truck accidents, getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is imperative. Drivers should be well aware of the fact that they must be rested for the strenuous duties that they must take on driving and hauling loads long distances. Some drivers also have some responsibility, usually just assisting, as to loading and unloading their loads at terminals and other warehousing destinations. That too requires training, experience and skills.

It is important to point out that truck accidents attributable to truck driver fatigue are hard to identify. A truck crash that occurs because of alcohol or drug use is identifiable by chemical tests. But the combination of speed and fatigue seem to be compatible in measuring the number of deadly crashes that happen in the case of fatigued truck drivers. Also, the black box of a semi-tractor trailer can be extremely valuable in determining speed, distances, braking and the like to better understand the conditions that led to a crash.

What is may be over-looked in prosecuting an injury or death in a truck crash case are the Federal Motor Carrie Safety Administration (FMCSA) new rules and regulations regarding “Hours-of Service Safety Regulations to Reduce Truck Driver Fatigue,” (HOS). In an apparent drive to respond to the alarming statistics where the U.S. Department of Transportation released its statistical report that found that 3,757 persons died in large truck crashes in 2011. Another 88,000 individuals suffered injuries in large truck crashes in that same year.

The regulations on hours of duty for truck drivers took effect in July 2013 as 49 C.F.R. Sect. 395.1, et seq. With the implementation of these regulations, truck drivers are limited to a maximum average work week of 70 on duty hours, down from the previous limit of 82 hour maximum. This change is designed to ensure that drivers have an adequate amount of time to rest.

When it is found in investigating truck crashes that the driver has not complied with the HOS regulations the driver and the trucking company could face the maximum penalties. [49 C.F.R. Appendix B to Section 386]. Naturally when it can be proved that the driver and trucking company were complicit in non-compliance with the HOS regulations, there is an easy inference to be drawn that driver fatigue was a factor in causing the collision and may lead lawyers to include a count for punitive damages in the complaint.

At Kreisman Law Offices we recognize the importance of investigation truck crash cases immediately. The investigation will always include the gathering of evidence to determine whether the HOS regulations have been violated. Our first course of action is to send a spoliation letter to the trucking company and its insurance company to preserve all evidence. Also, the driver’s daily log book, on-board recording device, bills of lading, the records of the dispatch, mobile phone records, weight/scale records, fuel receipts, toll receipts and credit card records will all be requested and reviewed.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, contact Kreisman Law Offices 24 hours a day at (312) 346-0045 or toll free (800) 583-8002 for a free and immediate consultation, or complete a contact form online. We are here to assist you and your family so that responsible parties are held accountable for the injuries or death to individuals injured in truck crashes. We have more than 40 years of experience handling truck crash injury cases. With our many years of experience in trying and settling truck crash cases in Illinois, we have the know-how to best handle your case. Our service is unmatched.

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