Driving restrictions and shift time limits keep some truckers from working as much as they might be willing to. Nevertheless, American truckers manage to log some serious hours. Despite federally-imposed work hour restrictions, the average truck driver is expected to drive between 2,000 and 3,000 miles per week. Industry-wide standards and expectations often require drivers to work long hours and drive hundreds of miles per shift.
Operating a massive, 40-plus ton vehicle is difficult. It is especially challenging for commercial truck drivers who have to push the limits to meet their employer’s needs. Not only does the job begin to wear on drivers’ stamina, but by nature, the industry also encourages overworking. Truck drivers who continue to drive after becoming drowsy or fatigued place others around them in danger of truck accidents. The statistics below make the dangers of driving while fatigued clear:
- Fatigued and overworked drivers are the primary cause of commercial truck crashes.
- Driver fatigue induces close to 13 percent of large truck accidents every year.
- The CDC reports that truck drivers are more likely to drive fatigued than members of the general population.
The Journal of Public Health Policy recently published a noteworthy study. The study conducted over 1,200 interviews with tractor-trailer operators. Their responses revealed some concerning trends, including:
- Close to three-quarters of interviewees violated hours-of-service rules.
- About two-thirds of those interviewed reported regularly driving more than the weekly maximum hours allowed.
- Another two-thirds of interviewees admitted to under-reporting work hours in log books.
Despite federal regulations intended to keep motorists, including truck drivers, safe, truck accidents caused by fatigued driving occur regularly. Truck accidents are often traumatizing for injured victims. In the aftermath of a catastrophic accident, victims may be overwhelmed and uncertain of what to do next. If you are interested in how truck driver’s fatigue influences accidents, read on.
Federal Hours of Service Regulations for Truckers
Regardless of the state you’re in, federal law prohibits truck drivers from driving while fatigued. National motor carrier experts determined that large trucks with fatigued drivers pose a serious risk to those around them. Although many trucking companies attempt to circumnavigate these rules, they operate to promote driver safety for all motor vehicle drivers and occupants.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of Service Regulations state that truckers:
- Must drive no more than 11 hours after taking a 10-hour break
- Must not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty (following being off duty for 10 hours)
- May only drive if eight hours or less have passed since the end of their last off-duty period
- May not drive after 60 to 70 hours on duty in seven or eight consecutive days
These guidelines attempt to mitigate the likelihood of truckers operating large vehicles while fatigued and distracted. Fatigued driving is linked to thousands of accidents each year. In response, the FMCSA prioritized a unique set of rules to prevent fatigued driving.
Who Is Liable When Truckers Violate These Regulations?
If a trucker operates his or her work vehicle in violation of FMCSA regulations and causes an accident, someone must be liable for the resulting damage. A truck accident can cause immense damage to pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicle occupants in consumer cars and trucks. Fatigued driving is dangerous driving, and when dangerous driving leads to an accident, somebody needs to be held accountable.
After a commercial trucking accident, you might see if you can hold one of the following parties responsible:
- The truck driver may be held liable for violating federal trucking laws. In addition, a driver may be responsible if he or she is found to be at fault for their own fatigue.
- The company that employs the truck driver could also be viewed as legally liable. If the company forced its driver to attempt to meet impossible standards, they may be liable for damages.
- Brokers can be liable for truck driver fatigue accidents, too. Brokers occasionally hire trucking companies that fail to screen drivers for certain conditions known to cause fatigue. Possible conditions include diabetes and sleep apnea.
Initially, it may be difficult to identify who caused your accident and who should be held legally liable for the resulting damages. The responsible parties depend on the unique circumstances of each case. After an accident, do not pursue legal action on your own. Determining liability in commercial truck accidents will likely be difficult and complex. You should work with an experienced personal injury lawyer when navigating the legal complexities of your claim.
I Was Hurt in an Accident—What Compensation Is Available?
Victims of accidents involving truck driver fatigue may pursue compensation for damages in court. After suffering injury or property damage during an accident, victims may be eligible to recover financial compensation for:
- Past, present, and future medical costs | Industrial trucks’ massive size often results in a considerable amount of damage in an accident. Many victims of truck driver fatigue accidents sustain more severe injuries than those involved in crashes with standard motor vehicles.
- Emotional pain and suffering | Accidents involving large commercial trucks are often traumatic, resulting in emotional pain and suffering. These terrifying experiences often have lifelong impacts on the victims.
- Lost wages and earning capacity | Some accidents are bad enough that they permanently alter the victim’s ability to earn a living wage. If your accident injuries prevent you from working, you may be able to recover compensation for lost wages or earning capacity.
A Truck Accident Attorney Can Help
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident caused by negligence or driver fatigue, you deserve justice. An experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyer may help you receive financial compensation for accident-related damages. Most truck accident lawyers even offer free consultations for potential clients to discuss the circumstances of your accident.