In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 40% of all truck accidents involve truck driver fatigue to some extent.
Per data collected by Caterpillar, drowsy commercial truck drivers cause 1,200 deaths and 78,000 injuries each year.
According to a series of studies, driver drowsiness is a leading cause of accidents involving large trucks.
Factors that can cause commercial truck driver drowsiness include:
Per a recent study, truck drivers who work overnight for more than three hours in a row are "as much at risk of an accident as mid-range drunk-drivers." Studies by the National Sleep Foundation have found drowsy driving reduces reaction time and performance more than alcohol. After 24 hours of sleep deprivation, a driver shows the same level of impairment as someone who has a BAC of 0.10%.
Drowsy driving is a serious problem because it:
This is such a problem that Caterpillar, the world's largest manufacturer of construction mining equipment, is starting to sell eye-and-face-tracking technology to prevent sleepy drivers from getting into accidents (in the surface mining industry, fatigue causes up to 65% of truck accidents). When its product, Driver Safety Solution, senses that a driver has fallen asleep or is looking away from the road and not paying attention, it activates audio alarms and seat vibrations. The government tries to thwart drowsy driving by placing limits on how long a truck driver can drive a day (by law, a truck driver can drive up to 11 hours at a stretch or up to 77 hours in a seven day period). According to one survey by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, however, 47.1% of long haul drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel on at least one occasion.
Due to the well-known dangers of fatigued truckers, there have been many steps taken to combat the problem. One such way is the implementation of hours-of-service (HOS) regulations by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which puts a limit on how many hours truckers can work in any given day or work week.
Examples of the HOS regulations for a property-carrying driver include:
Despite well-known dangers of fatigued drivers, the FMCSA has continued lobbying for rules that would stretch HOS regulations further, though they have been continually struck down by federal courts. Under their proposed rules, truckers could drive 11 hours every day of their work week, take a weekend of 34 hours, and then continue driving for an exhausting 77 hours in a 7-day period.
Many believe that drivers should be required to use tamper-proof recording devices, like Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) to accurately monitor their daily and weekly drive times. This could help reduce the temptation to drive drowsy and protect injured victims in their pursuit of compensation. According to statistics, only 45% of commercial trucks have EOBRs installed in them.
There are several factors that must be taken into consideration by your lawyer. For example, it is vitally important that your attorney takes the time to examine the driver's log to check whether or not the driver had been operating for a lawful amount of hours. During the interview or disposition, your attorney needs to ask questions pertaining to the driver's amount of sleep and rest prior to the accident occurring. Questions should also be asked regarding any substances used to help a driver stay alert.
Should your attorney determine that fatigue played a considerable role in the accident, the next step would involve looking into the driver's working conditions. For example, did the trucking company have guidelines that supported the driver getting adequate amounts of rest? If not, the trucking company could be potentially liable for the accident. In cases where drivers are paid per the mile or by the load, they may be financially driven to drive past their natural limits—leaving them on the road without the necessary amounts of rest. In these cases, the trucking company may be found to have encouraged drivers to work too long.
If you were injured in a serious accident with a tractor-trailer, protect your right to compensation before it's too late. When you retain the services of our trucking accident law firm, we will work immediately to investigate the accident and determine its cause. Truck driver fatigue is one of many issues we may consider. By thoroughly investigating the scene, the truck, trucking records, witness accounts, police reports, and all other relevant evidence, we and our accident reconstruction experts can work to paint a clear picture of what occurred. This can help us prove the legal responsibility of the other party or parties.
Contact a truck accident lawyer to discuss truck driver fatigue and its role in 18-wheeler accidents.