Driver fatigue is the most frustrating of all the causes of truck accidents, and the reason is that it’s avoidable. If drivers would simply follow the rules – and trucking companies would stop making unreasonable demands on their drivers – it’s very likely this problem would disappear.
Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon. Accidents will continue to occur, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities. If you’ve suffered an injury or lost a loved one due to a fatigued truck driver, the law firm of Penn Kestner & McEwen is ready to help. We’ll be happy to answer all of your questions and provide the aggressive representation necessary for you to have the best chance of obtaining the compensation you deserve.
The Dangers of Driving While Fatigued
Driving a truck while fatigued is an extremely dangerous practice that can lead to severe accidents, injuries, and even deaths. Fatigue impairs cognitive functions, slows reaction time, and reduces a driver’s ability to stay alert and focused on the road.
When truck drivers become fatigued, they can’t safely operate their vehicles. They may experience “micro sleep” or brief periods of unconsciousness, which can lead to a loss of control of the truck and result in a collision. Fatigue can also impair judgment, making it difficult for drivers to assess risks and respond appropriately to changing road conditions.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
Several factors contribute to the prevalence of fatigue among truck drivers, including long working hours, irregular schedules, and inadequate sleep.
One of the primary causes of truck driver fatigue is the long hours they spend on the road. Many truck drivers work extended shifts, sometimes up to 14 hours a day, which can be physically and mentally exhausting. In addition, trucking companies often impose tight deadlines on drivers, which can create pressure to drive longer hours and skip necessary rest breaks.
Irregular schedules are another contributing factor to truck driver fatigue. Drivers may need to adjust their sleep and meal schedules to accommodate changing delivery schedules, which can disrupt their body’s natural circadian rhythm. This can lead to sleep disruptions and make it difficult for drivers to stay alert and focused on the road.
Inadequate sleep is also a significant contributor to truck driver fatigue. Drivers not getting enough sleep may experience drowsiness, decreased reaction time, and impaired judgment, leading to an increased risk of accidents on the road.
Types of Accidents Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue
Accidents caused by fatigued driving can take many forms, but they all have the potential to cause severe injuries and fatalities.
One common type of accident caused by fatigued driving is an override collision. When a driver is fatigued, they may not be able to react quickly enough to changes in traffic patterns or sudden stops. They might not be aware a car is stopped in front of them and may ride over the top of the vehicle. As a result, not only crushing the car but also everyone inside.
Another type is a head-on collision. A tired driver may drift into the opposite traffic lane, leading to a head-on collision with another vehicle. These accidents can be devastating, often resulting in serious injuries or fatalities.
In addition to these types of accidents, fatigued driving can also lead to jackknife accidents, rollover accidents, intersection accidents, and collisions with pedestrians or bicyclists.
Trucking Regulations in Place to Reduce Fatigued Driving
Several trucking regulations are in place to reduce fatigued driving and improve driver safety. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put these regulations to ensure truck drivers get the necessary rest and time off to prevent fatigue and promote safe driving practices.
For example, the Hours of Service (HOS) rules limit a driver’s time on the road without taking a break. The current HOS rules allow drivers to work a maximum of 14 hours daily, with no more than 11 hours spent driving. Drivers must also take a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving. After reaching their maximum service hours, drivers must take a break of at least 10 consecutive hours before beginning a new workday.
Trucking companies must also maintain accurate records of drivers’ working hours and breaks to ensure compliance with HOS rules. These records must be kept for at least six months and are subject to inspection by the FMCSA.
Who’s Liable for an Accident Caused by a Tired Driver?
Determining liability for an accident caused by a tired driver can be complex and depends on the case’s specific circumstances. In general, liability may fall on one or more of the following parties:
- The driver: If a driver causes an accident while operating a commercial vehicle while fatigued, they may be held liable for any damages or injuries resulting from the accident. The driver may have violated HOS rules or engaged in other negligent behavior.
- The trucking company: Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that their drivers comply with HOS rules and are not operating their vehicles while fatigued. A company may face liability if it encourages or requires drivers to work beyond their limits or fails to monitor driver compliance with HOS rules.
- Other third parties: In some cases, liability for an accident caused by a tired driver may fall on other third parties, such as maintenance companies responsible for maintaining the vehicle or shippers who put undue pressure on drivers to meet tight deadlines.
Ultimately, determining liability will depend on carefully investigating the facts and circumstances of the case. This investigation may involve reviewing driver logs, maintenance records, and other evidence to determine the cause of the accident. If you have been involved in an accident caused by a tired driver, it’s essential to seek the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights.
Damages You Can Recover After a Fatigued Driver Causes Your Accident
You may be entitled to compensation for your financial and other losses, known as damages. These damages can help compensate you for the physical, emotional, and financial harm caused by the accident. Here are some of the damages you may be able to recover:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- And many others