Driving a commercial truck is one of the most exhausting careers today. In fact, TIME magazine lists it as the 7th-most dangerous job in the US. Life out on the road is not easy. Drivers sleep in their trucks, have grueling schedules, and do not go home for weeks at a time. They do this while behind the wheel of 80,000-pound behemoths. All it takes is a quick nod-off to put the lives of others at risk.
This dangerous scenario plays out on our roads every day. Most of us would think to pull over and get some sleep, but truckers may feel they do not have that luxury. Drivers are on tight deadlines to make deliveries and must keep going no matter how tired they are. Driver fatigue is a problem that has disastrous consequences.
FMCSA’s Hours of Service Regulations
According to the FMCSA’s hours of service, commercial drivers must follow guidelines on how many hours they can work each day. The agency has implemented these guidelines to lower driver fatigue and prevent truck crashes.
Hours-of-service regulations for truck drivers include:
- Drivers are only allowed to be on-duty 14 hours a day
- Drivers can be on the road no more than 11 hours per day
- Drivers are required to take a 10-hour off-duty break after their 14 hours are up
- Drivers must take a 30-minute break after eight hours
- Drivers cannot be on the road more than 60 hours a week
- Drivers cannot be on duty more than 70 hours a week in an eight-day period
- A 34-hour break is required to restart their weekly hours
- Short-haul drivers have an adverse driving conditions clause that allows them to add 2 hours to their daily driving and on-duty time
Why is Driver Fatigue Such a Problem?
The FMCSA often conducts periodical large truck causation studies. One study found that approximately 18,000 truck crashes, or 13 percent of the total, involved driver fatigue as a causing factor. When any person is tired, regardless of his or her job, that person will suffer from a lack of concentration and cannot react quickly.
Slow reaction time and a lack of concentration are dangerous when behind the wheel. According to OSHA, the effects of fatigue can include drivers who:
- Nod off
- Make poor decisions
- Experience tunnel vision
- React too slowly to changing road conditions
- Drift from their lane
- Experience microsleeps
1-in-5 fatal accidents among the general population result from some type of fatigue. When you are behind the wheel of a semi, this only adds to the danger. The IIHS reported that 68 percent of truck accident fatalities in 2020 were occupants of other vehicles. This means the consequences of truck driver fatigue can be catastrophic.
What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?
Several elements can contribute to truck driver fatigue. Most of it involves a trucker’s demanding schedule and lifestyle while on the road. The following are several factors that contribute to truck driver fatigue.
Long working hours
It can be easy for the average motorist to think that driving a truck all day is not that tiring. In reality, anyone who works 14 hours a day will be exhausted. The cumulative job stress and being away from home for weeks can also impact your life. A mere 10-hour rest between shifts means a trucker can drive during daytime and nighttime hours. This can easily throw off a person’s circadian rhythm.
The FMCSA reports that as many as one-third of all commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. Irregular working schedules, diet, heavy smoking, and sitting for long periods of time can contribute to sleep problems. Someone with sleep apnea does not get the REM sleep his or her brain needs to wake up refreshed.
Alcohol can contribute to a truck driver’s fatigue. Data reveals that 2 percent of fatal alcohol-related accidents involve large trucks. All it takes are a few drinks to promote relaxation and impair judgment. Even a night of heavy drinking the night before can sap energy levels.
When someone gets sick, he or she may have the option of being able to stay home from work and rest. Truck drivers do not have that luxury. If there is a strict deadline, a company may not give any other option but for the driver to push through and do the job. Some illnesses cause exhaustion and will make fatigue even worse.
Lack of a healthy diet and exercise
Driving commercial vehicles, especially long-haul loads, can negatively impact a person’s health. When you’re on the road, there are not very many eating options to choose from, especially if you only have a few moments to eat.
Every truck stop has one or more fast-food restaurants and buffets. This provides drivers with a convenient option, but a lack of healthy eating habits and a sedentary job can lead to weight gain. Weight gain contributes to sleep apnea, while a high-sugar, high-calorie diet can cause blood sugar spikes and fatigue.
Driving a commercial vehicle is not easy. This lifestyle can be exhausting in multiple ways. Call Judd Shaw Injury Law today if you have been injured in an accident with a fatigued truck driver. You deserve to be compensated for your injuries.
Injuries Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue
Even with all the safety advancements of passenger vehicles, they are still no match for commercial trucks’ sheer size and weight. Fatigue can inhibit the ability of even the most experienced commercial drivers. The consequences of a crash between the two are often devastating.
The most common types of injuries caused by truck crashes include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Back and neck injuries
- Cuts and bruises
- Internal injuries
Who is Liable After a Truck Accident Caused by Driver Fatigue?
Personal injury cases can be challenging to win, especially against trucking companies. They are powerful businesses with lots of money and high-end attorneys. More often than not, they can prove the motorist caused the accident, not the driver. Do not let this scare you. Your lawyer can help you determine whether you have a case.
The plaintiff will have to prove that the accident, and injuries, were directly caused by driver fatigue. There are ways to prove this with some investigation by asking some questions.
Questions your attorney can answer with a thorough examination can include:
- Was the driver fudging their logbooks?
- Was the driver properly following the hours of service?
- Was the driver taking any drugs or alcohol?
- Does the driver have untreated sleep apnea?
- Was the driver on any medications that cause fatigue?
- Were there any other witnesses who saw the truck swerving or lose control?
- Does the trucking company have a record of hours of service violations?
- Does the trucking company have a history of fatigue-related accidents?
- Are there any former drivers willing to testify against the company’s practices?
This list is just a few scenarios that can be examined to prove your case. Proving fault is necessary. If the evidence is on your side, you should be able to win compensation for your injuries.
Call Judd Shaw Injury Law for Aggressive Personal Injury Services
Here at Judd Shaw Injury Law, we see lives torn apart by truck accidents. It results from greedy trucking companies who want to make a few extra bucks rather than treat their drivers like human beings. Our team of experienced truck accident attorneys will not stand for it. That is the Judd Shaw Way.
Do not let anyone tell you the accident was your fault. You have every right to be compensated for your injuries. When we take on your case, our attorneys will fight for you to win back your family’s financial security. If you cannot come out to speak to us, we will do whatever it takes to accommodate your needs, even if that means coming to your home.
You can contact us by dialing (866) 909-6894 for a free case evaluation. We are available 24/7, so call us any time of the day or night.