Truck Driver Fatigue & Trucking Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that, in 2018, large trucks were involved in nearly 5,000 fatal crashes on American roadways in addition to approximately 112,000 crashes that resulted in serious injury. The most frequently cited cause of such accidents is truck driver fatigue, typically caused by prolonged periods of physical and mental exertion resulting in impaired driving performance.
Operators of large commercial vehicles such as tractor-trailers are far more likely to drive fatigued than other drivers simply due to the nature of their work and the trucking industry.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
Federal law imposes strict requirements with respect to the maximum hours of service (HOS) that a truck driver is allowed to be on duty actively working. Truck drivers in the United States are, for example, prohibited from driving more than 60 hours in one week, or more than 70 hours in an eight-day period. They are also not allowed to drive more than 11 hours straight, and are obligated to take rest breaks.
One would think that these and other carefully crafted federal truck driving regulations would practically eliminate truck driver fatigue and the many proven dangers that it poses. But an inherent weakness of the federal rules is that commercial truck drivers frequently become fatigued even if they fully comply with the law. Eleven straight hours of driving, which the rules allow, is a highly fatiguing activity, as is driving 60-70 hours in the span of about week.
A second reason why truck driver fatigue remains a problem despite federal regulations is the challenging nature of rules enforcement. The reality is that truck drivers don’t always get good sleep during those times that are carved out for that purpose, and establishing a healthy sleeping pattern is something that many truck drivers are simply not able to do.
Third, it is well documented that truck drivers in this country regularly use chemical substances such as amphetamines to stay alert when working. These substances can impair a truck driver’s critical thinking abilities and physical reflexes.
Another major cause of truck driver fatigue is the pressure that many drivers feel to make deliveries on time—even if that means violating the federal rules. In addition, many truck drivers are paid by the mile as opposed to the number of hours worked. This financial arrangement often creates a disincentive to abide by the federal rules and pushes many drivers to work dangerously long hours and drive aggressively.
When truck drivers violate the law, it can lead to catastrophic injuries. Persons who are injured in a trucking accident may have claims against the driver and may also have claims against the trucking company. Sometimes the violation of the law is so egregious that punitive damages can be awarded by a jury. An experienced trucking accident attorney can provide advice about your rights and claims.
Hurt in a Trucking Accident? Contact Whalen Hersh
Being hurt in a roadway accident involving a large truck can be a life-changing experience. Whether caused by truck driver fatigue or some other factor, you as a truck accident victim may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries, losses, and damages, including lost income, damages for pain and suffering, and damages for physical impairment. The Colorado truck accident attorneys at Whalen Hersh are standing by ready to help you explore your legal options.