Truckers are often under pressure to continue driving, despite being fatigued. It is an alarming trend that has continued despite strict federal regulations. In truck crashes, that are the fault of the truck driver, fatigue is the number one cause, accounting for 35-40% of all truck accidents. A sleep deprived driver may be forcing himself to drive, due to the pressure of a delivery deadline or an arduous schedule. That fatigued driver may be as impaired as a driver that is under the influence of alcohol.
Truck driver fatigue is the result of any or all the following; lack of sleep, working overtime or loading/unloading heavy cargo. A fatigued driver is often dependent on coffee or one of those heavily caffeinated drinks which are available at any rest stop. These stimulants may mask the true level of fatigue until the driver becomes mesmerized by the roadway and suddenly nods off. Then there is a driverless, out of control 20 to 40-ton truck, is traveling headlong towards disaster.
The Law Designed to Prevent Truck Driver Fatigue
Interstate truck drivers are subject to Hours of Service (HOS) limits and are required by Federal Law to keep records of all their time spent on the road, on duty but not driving and the time they are off duty. The law allows a driver a maximum of 11 consecutive hours on the road followed by a mandatory break of 10 hours or more. A maximum total of 14 hours combined driving and non-driving work is permitted. Prior to, or during their driving schedule, the work they must do may be physically tiring. Despite the regulations, many drivers spend 12-14 hours on the road plus an additional 4-5 hours of non-driving work without a break. They may be motivated by a bonus for meeting a target delivery time, a stringent schedule by the trucking company or consignor, making up for lost time created by earlier inclement weather, or completing the delivery in time to pick up a return load.
A truck driver is only allowed to drive 60-77 hours in a seven-day period and 70-88 hours within an eight-day period. The work week may be restarted at zero hours, only after two and one half days off. Both independent and company employed drivers are required to maintain a log. These logs often contain falsified information when the drivers have exceeded the hours permitted on the road. In the case of an accident, these logs are not always an accurate indicator of the actual hours driven. A truck accident investigator is required to track the route and stops made by the driver as far back as the initial arrival and departure. A calculation performed from the distance driven, times the average speed of the truck, less the time of each stop, can determine the time on the road. Although some trucks today are equipped with electronic on board recorders (EBQR) they are only required to be installed on trucks that are owned by trucking companies with a poor compliance record. The paper log books that have been the standard for decades are still in use by most truck drivers.
A fatigued driver may become so overtired that they experience hallucinations, causing them to break or swerve to avoid non-existent hazards. Their judgement and reaction time can be greatly impaired or they may fall asleep at the wheel. Even a few seconds of dozing is a potential for disaster– the same as with a distracted driver.
If You Are Involved in a Truck Crash
If you are involved in a truck accident, it is important to seek medical attention first. After that, it is imperative that the services of a qualified truck accident attorney are retained. The experienced truck accident law firm will have the resources to conduct a thorough and lengthy investigation into the facts leading up to the crash. The investigation will require an accident reconstruction team to recreate exactly what occurred in the hours or days leading up to the accident. If a discrepancy exists between the log book and the actual time the driver spent on the road, an experienced investigator will find it. It could be something as small as a receipt for coffee at a convenience store, when the log shows a two-hour lunch break. This could prove the driver was drinking the coffee in the cab at the time of the crash.
Trucking companies have their own experienced insurance investigators and highly experienced legal teams who will go to extremes to prove that the trucker was not at fault in a crash. It requires an equally experienced truck accident attorney to stand up for the rights of the victim of a truck accident. As a victim, you or a loved one may be entitled to collect for past, present and future medical bills, loss of income over a lifetime, rehabilitation, job retraining as well as pain and suffering and possible punitive damages. The experienced truck accident attorney knows the value of your case and will wage a tenacious fight to recover the compensation you deserve.
Vititoe Law Group has recovered substantial awards for countless victims of truck accidents. If you or a loved one were injured, or you lost a loved one in a truck accident reach out to Vititoe Law Group today and speak with a qualified truck accident attorney. There is no obligation and you do not pay a cent until we win.