Truck Driver Fatigue Can Have Deadly Consequences

Like any business, trucking companies and drivers want to operate efficiently and effectively. There is increased pressure to deliver goods as quickly as possible, and this may lead truck drivers to push the limits of safe driving and operate their vehicles when they are tired. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) names commercial drivers as one group most likely to drive while drowsy.

Drowsy Truckers Cause Serious and Fatal Accidents

Drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); however, experts widely agree that drowsy driving is an underreported cause of accidents.

Research shows that when commercial vehicles are involved in auto accidents with passenger cars, the outcome is serious and often deadly for the occupants of the smaller vehicle. A truck can weigh 20-30 times more than a car and is considerably taller—two factors that contribute to passenger car danger in a crash.

Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation states that in 2013, ninety-seven percent of people killed in crashes involving a car and semi-truck were occupants of the passenger car.

Hours of Service Regulations Should Protect Drivers

In order to prevent fatigued driving accidents, the federal government has set limits for how long a commercial driver carrying property or goods can operate a vehicle. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has stated hours of service regulations that are very detailed and specific about the hours allowed for commercial driving. Here is a look at just a few of these important rules:

  • A commercial driver carrying property and goods must take a 30-minute break for every 8 consecutive hours of driving.
  • A commercial driver carrying property or goods is allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours if he has been off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
  • A commercial driver carrying property or goods is allowed a period of 14-hour consecutive hours in which to drive up to 11 hours—if the driver has been off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. Driving is limited to this 14-hour period even if the driver performed tasks that didn’t involve driving such as having lunch or taking a nap.
  • A commercial driver carrying property or goods can drive 60 hours if he works a 7-day schedule and 70 hours on duty in 8 consecutive days.

Recommendations Aim to Reduce Dangers

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called for trucking companies to improve and expand fatigue management programs. Trucking companies must take the problem seriously and encourage drivers to follow hours of service rules carefully. Additionally, truck drivers should be mindful of any medical conditions that could make them sleepy behind the wheel.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a truck accident and you suspect a drowsy driver may be to blame, you may have reason to make a claim. Contact the team at Tapella Law for a free consultation at 855-522-5291.