Truck Driver Fatigue
As a part of the job, truck drivers must often spend long hours behind the wheel each day, sometimes for several days straight. While state and federal regulations limit the number of hours drivers may legally spend on duty, unfortunately, some drivers exceed these limits to meet strict delivery schedules. And, some trucking companies even encourage them to do so in the interest of furthering their profits.
Even when truck drivers follow the regulations, long hours on the road mean truck driver fatigue still becomes a real risk. According to the National Academy of Sciences, crash data from police records compiled by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System found that approximately 1.5 percent of fatal truck accidents were caused by driver fatigue or by the driver falling asleep at the wheel.
However, this number underestimates the actual portion of truck accidents caused by truck driver fatigue due to the difficulty in recognizing it following a crash. For example, a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study estimated that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were fatigued at the time of their accident. In reality, truck driver fatigue presents a real and potentially significant risk for other motorists and passengers on the road.
If you were hurt in a truck crash you suspect was caused by truck operator fatigue, you need experienced legal representation. Truck accident claims are often complex. An experienced attorney can help uncover the evidence to show the driver fatigue contributed to the accident. At Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C., our truck accident attorneys provide skilled, battle-tested legal advocacy.
Our firm has a proven track record of helping injured victims recover compensation from liable parties. Through our zealous legal advocacy, we were able to recover $9 million for our client, a single mother who was hit by an overly fatigued truck driver with a history of medical issues and safety violations. We also obtained a $3.8 million arbitration award for another client who suffered severe injuries after she collided with a tractor-trailer that was blocking the dark and unlit street.
We have the resources and skills needed to go the distance in your case, even when facing large trucking companies who aggressively fight against you at every turn.
Call or contact us today for a free case review. You will speak with a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer about your legal options for pursuing maximum compensation and justice when you’ve been harmed in a truck crash caused by a fatigued truck driver.
Liability in Truck Driver Accidents
If a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel or driver fatigue causes a collision with a semi-trailer truck, liability for the crash may fall on the negligent truck driver. All motorists are expected to remain alert at all times behind the wheel, so driving while feeling drowsy or fatigued may constitute negligence by the truck driver.
The trucking company can also be held liable for a truck accident caused by a drowsy or fatigued driver. When the trucking company employs the driver, it can be held vicariously liable for the driver’s own negligence in causing the accident. A trucking company may also be held directly liable for its own negligence in causing a truck accident with a fatigued driver. For example, suppose the trucking company imposed an unreasonable delivery schedule or ordered a driver to exceed their hours of service limitations. In that case, the trucking company could be held responsible for having contributed to the crash.
Why Are Truck Drivers Fatigued?
Commercial drivers must follow federal regulations that limit the number of hours they can drive. Current rules state that drivers can only drive for a maximum of 11 hours a day and may not drive after being on duty for 14 hours. They must rest after a full day on duty for at least ten hours. Drivers are further limited to 60 hours behind the wheel in a seven-day period or 70 hours in an eight-day period. After this period, they must take two overnight periods off… Some drivers become fatigued when they exceed these limits, either intentionally or unintentionally.
However, some trucking companies blatantly violate these rules. They may place unrealistic deadlines and demands on truck drivers, encouraging them to work longer hours without breaks and engage in other dangerous driving behaviors. Additionally, some drivers are paid by the mile, which provides an incentive to get to each destination as quickly as possible.
Even if drivers stay within the required limits, they can still become drowsy or fatigued. Drivers’ schedules can make it difficult for them to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Drivers may have to sleep in motels or the truck’s sleeper berth while on the road, which might provide less restful sleep.
Some drivers may choose to resort to stimulant drugs to help them stay alert during long days on the road. These drugs can negatively affect a truck driver’s abilities behind the wheel. When the effects wear off, a driver may end up feeling even greater fatigue.
Could Fatigue Affect My Claim?
The cause of a truck crash may not be evident at first glance at the accident scene. However, evidence such as the truck driver’s logbooks, surveillance video, and witness statements may indicate that a truck driver may have been fatigued at the time of the crash. A meticulous investigation may provide the missing explanation as to why a collision occurred and establish that the truck driver and trucking company were responsible for the crash.
Causes of Driver Fatigue
Truck drivers can become fatigued while on duty or behind the wheel for many reasons, including:
- Exceeding the federal regulations governing hours of service limitations
- Not getting enough sleep during off-duty periods
- Skipping meals, eating at odd times, or maintaining a poor diet
- Not taking naps during mandated rest breaks
- Using medications that can cause drowsiness
- Alcohol or drug use
Truck drivers need to understand and identify when they begin to exhibit signs of fatigue so that they can pull off the road and get the rest they need.
How an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Can Help
An experienced truck accident attorney from our firm can help with your claim by:
- Referring you to physicians and other medical providers to ensure you receive the treatment you need.
- Arranging to have your car repaired and getting you a car rental while your vehicle is being repaired – for FREE!
- Investigating all aspects of the accident and its underlying causes.
- Identifying potentially liable parties and financial sources to compensate you for your losses.
- Compiling evidence indicating that the driver may have been fatigued or drowsy at the time of the accident, such as truck driver logs, truck electronic data recorder information, and surveillance footage.
- Filing your claims with at-fault parties and insurers and aggressively pursuing full compensation for your losses.
If you’ve been seriously hurt in a truck accident that may have been caused by truck driver fatigue, turn to the attorneys of Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C., for help in pursuing the financial recovery you need.
When you have long-lasting or permanent injuries or disabilities, you need a legal team that will stand by you through the long haul. We have won more than 3,000 cases and have a success rate greater than 99 percent. Contact our firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about how we can help you recover.