Is Trucker Fatigue a Serious Problem?

Truck driver fatigue is such a problem the federal government has passed regulations which limit the amount of time a trucker can work each day and week. These “hours of service” regulations prohibit a trucker spending more than 11 hours driving in a day when transporting goods. They also prohibit driving for more than 60 hours in a 7-day period.

Unfortunately, these regulations aren’t always effective. Some truckers push past the limits and falsify their trucker logs. Others face intense pressure from their employer to get goods to their destination early, so they drive through the night.

Many workers push themselves too hard, but few pose the risk to public safety like truckers. Many of them are hauling tons of freight, and these vehicles can destroy any smaller vehicle which gets in the way. At Correll Law Firm, our truck accident lawyer has negotiated many settlements for clients injured in a collision. If a fatigued driver is to blame, we can usually sue the trucker and his employer for compensation. But proving your case requires high quality evidence, so contact our firm as soon as possible to begin work.

Fatigue Impairs Performance

Long hauling is a difficult job. Being on the road for more than 10 hours in a day can exhaust someone and lead to social isolation. Insufficient sleep can negatively impact trucker performance in the following ways:

  • Delayed reaction times
  • Impaired judgment
  • Reduced attention
  • Inability to control the vehicle
  • Brief periods of sleep

The pressures truckers face are intense. Many will drive as many hours as possible to get to their destination before a tight deadline. The industry has also buckled underneath a truck driver shortage, which puts more stress on those who are still employed. They might never get enough “down time” to fully recharge their batteries. It’s no surprise that one study reported that about 2/3 of all truckers are fatigued while driving. An alarming 13% admitted that they fell asleep on the job.

Truckers have various strategies for masking fatigue, such as drinking excessive coffee for the caffeine. Others use amphetamines or even cocaine, which is illegal. These controlled substances cause other problems, like hallucinations, and can make a trucker feel even more tired when they come down from a high. Drug use is also a serious problem and must be seen as related to trucker fatigue.

An Inadequate Federal Response

The Department of Transportation has passed regulations which limit the hours a trucker can work. Some of the highlights include:

  • A trucker who hauls goods must have 10 consecutive hours off duty after driving for 11 hours, and they cannot drive beyond the 14th hour of coming onto duty.
  • A trucker must take at least a half-hour break after 8 hours of driving in a day.
  • A trucker may not drive after 60 hours in a 7-day period or 70 hours in an 8-day period until they have 34 consecutive hours off.

Unfortunately, industry groups are trying to loosen these regulations, and they have had some success. For example, revisions to the rules now don’t count time when a trucker cannot drive due to adverse weather conditions. In fact, a hauler can add up to two hours to the 14-hour limit if they confront adverse weather conditions, like snow. Changes have also been made to the half-hour break.

Even if a trucker follows the regulations, they might still be tired. Sleeping in the truck at night or in hotels is not conducive to feeling fully rested.

Were You Injured by a Tired Truck Driver?

Driving while fatigued is a type of negligence. Feeling pressure from an employer is no excuse. Driving when you are too tired is unsafe, and truckers are liable for any collisions they cause due to fatigue.

If you were hurt in a crash, we recommend trying to document the accident as thoroughly as possible (if you can). For example:

1.       Note if the trucker is yawning uncontrollably or stumbling around after the accident. These behaviors are signs of fatigue.

2.       Pay attention if Styrofoam coffee cups are spilling out of the cab or the trucker has amphetamines in his hand when you talk to him. You will want to tell your attorney about these details.

3.       Tell the responding police officer your suspicions that a trucker is fatigued. The officer might investigate by asking questions. The police officer might also request a urine or blood test to see if the trucker has taken amphetamines or another drug.

4.       Take pictures of the accident scene, including the location of vehicles. Also write down anything the trucker said to you following the wreck. This information often proves critical.

A trucking company might have evidence we can use to show fatigue. For example, the truck might have a “black box” which downloads electronic data about how long the truck was in motion. It might show a trucker drove all night—and well past the federal maximum allowed. We can request this information from a trucking company.

Your attorney can review a trucker’s logs to see if they drove too much. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the number of hour of service violations has crept back up over the past few years. More truckers are hauling for too long, and the public is suffering the consequences. Let our firm identify which evidence is most useful for negotiating a settlement.

Injured in a Wreck? Contact Correll Law Firm

Truck accident collisions lead to major injuries and considerable car damage. Many vehicles end up totaled. Bodily injuries also require extensive rest and rehabilitation. Following a crash, few victims have no idea how to begin the claims process or if they can even receive money. This is where Correll Law Firm comes in. Our truck accident lawyer has managed many claims and is happy to assist you. The days might seem bleak, but you have an advocate on your team.

Call us today at 540-535-2005. Our firm offers a free consultation to anyone injured in an accident with a big rig or other truck.