Truck Driver Fatigue

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How Dangerous is Drowsy Driving For a Truck Driver?

truck driver pay and safety on the jobDrowsy driving is one of the leading causes of truck accidents in the US.  Truck drivers are under enormous pressure to meet deadlines, get paid, and keep their jobs, but when the driver of a 15-ton commercial vehicle becomes drowsy, the results can be catastrophic. Of course, the motorists most likely to be injured or killed in a truck accident are not the truck drivers themselves, but the drivers and passengers in other vehicles.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the commercial trucking industry, including how many hours truck drivers are permitted to operate their vehicles on a daily and weekly basis. In 2020, new rules were finalized in an effort to increase flexibility for truck drivers while improving road safety. These include:

  • An 11 hour daily driving limit
  • A 70 hour maximum work week, followed by 34 hours off duty
  • A required 30-minute break after 8 consecutive hours of driving; the 30 minute break may be taken in “on-duty, not driving” status, or “off duty” status

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However, the trucking industry is extremely competitive, and these  kinds of regulations are not always enough to keep sleep-deprived drivers from getting behind the wheel.  Trucking companies need to make deliveries both quickly and cheaply to turn a profit. The sooner a truck returns from a delivery, the sooner it can be back on the road with another. To minimize costs, trucking companies often pay drivers by the mile and don’t compensate for “on-duty” time spent on inspections or mandated rest times. This system inherently encourages drivers to skimp on mandated rest breaks to maximize their paychecks.

In the event of an accident, trucking companies also have their own legal teams who are familiar with the laws and how to use them to their clients’ advantage. If you are involved in an accident with a distracted truck driver, you need a well-qualified attorney who understands how to properly represent your claim.

Why You Need a Truck Accident Attorney Who Specializes in Trucker Fatigue Accidents

Munley Law has over 60 years of experience in dealing with truck accident claims, including those caused by drowsy driving. Trucking companies have a team of investigators, adjustors, agents, and lawyers to help protect them. As the accident victim, you need your own team of legal experts to protect you.  The attorneys at Munley Law have consistently been named to the Best Lawyers in America and have received the highest peer review ratings possible from Martindale Hubble. Additionally, we have received some of the largest settlements and verdicts in the country for our clients.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a trucking accident in Pennsylvania, call us today at (855) 866-5529 or use our online contact form. We will provide you with a FREE consultation and help you decide how to proceed after your accident.

What is Truck Driver Fatigue?

Driver fatigue occurs when exhausted motor-vehicle operators continue driving. According to multiple studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 25 adults reported that they had fallen asleep behind the wheel in the last 30 days. That same CDC study also found that truck drivers are much more likely than the average population to experience driver fatigue. Drowsy driving is dangerous for anyone, not only the truck driver, but truckers face an increased risk due to the nature of their work and lifestyle.

When exhausted truckers get on America’s roads, highways, and interstates, the consequences can be lethal. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 40 percent of all accidents involving trucks are caused by exhaustion, insufficient sleep, or driver fatigue.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 21 percent of fatal crashes involve fatigued drivers. AAA further found that drivers who slept 6-7 hours had a crash rate that was 1.3 times higher, drivers who slept 5-6 hours had a crash rate that was 1.9 times higher, drivers who slept 4-5 hours had a crash rate that was 4.3 times higher, and drivers who slept less than 4 hours had a crash rate that was 11.5 times higher.

What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?

There is no single cause of truck driver fatigue. Overly tired drivers get behind the wheel for a number of reasons. Many truckers do not take enough breaks. Instead, they push themselves to keep driving in order to get home after days or even weeks on the road. Drivers are further motivated by financial bonuses for adding stops to their routes.truck accidents caused by cars

Delivery truck operators often feel pressure to deliver commercial goods on schedule. Others may log extra hours so that they can make up for delays caused by rush hour traffic, highway closures, detours, accident traffic jams, bad weather, necessary rest stops, or getting lost. Substance abuse is common among truck drivers and those who indulge in alcohol or drugs like marijuana, opiates, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and other depressants before or while operating a tractor-trailer are more likely to suffer from driver fatigue. Additionally, many truck drivers suffer from health issues such as sleep apnea that diminish sleep quality and increase drowsiness.

What Are the Signs of Driver Fatigue?

In order to recognize and prevent driver fatigue, truckers should look out for the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Repeated yawning
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Frequent blinking
  • Difficulty remembering and complying with directions
  • Missing exits
  • Drifting into other lanes or the shoulder
  • Feeling tired, restless, or irritable

Drivers who experience these symptoms should stop driving and find a safe place to rest immediately.

What Happens When Fatigued Truckers Continue Driving?

There are problematic consequences for truckers who ignore the signs of fatigued driving. As compared to a well-rested tractor-trailer operator, an overly tired driver is more likely to:

  • React slowly
  • Fall asleep behind the wheel
  • Collide with highway partitions, signs, mile markers, and other highway structures
  • Improperly break
  • Fail to use turn signals
  • Fail to stay in designated lanes
  • Fail to properly merge
  • Fail to pay attention to speed limits
  • Keep out of the shoulder
  • Look out for deer and other hazardous wildlife on the road

Each of these symptoms independently increases the likelihood that an accident will occur. Like all auto collisions, those involved in a crash caused by truck driver fatigue may suffer damage to physical property, permanent injuries, emotional pain, an inability to work or maintain steady employment, unexpected costs, or death.

For decades, the truck accident team at Munley Law has been committed to victims and their families. If you or a loved one was in accident, don’t suffer any longer. Contact a Munley Law attorney today!

How Can Truckers Prevent Driver Fatigue?

 To avoid driving fatigue, truckers should always comply with all FMCSA driving hours limitations and also take the following precautions:

  • Never consume alcohol or use illicit or prescribed drugs that may cause drowsiness
  • Know the signs of driving fatigue and stop driving if they arise
  • Avoid relying on caffeine and other stimulants that may temporarily mask the symptoms of driving fatigue
  • Report employers who attempt to coerce or threaten truck drivers into unsafe driving using the FMCSA’s free reporting hotline at 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) on Mondays through Fridays between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM Eastern Standard Time or online through the FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database

What Are Some of the Signs of Truck Driver Fatigue?

Slower to react, not paying attention to traffic signals, weaving, speeding, poor decision making ie making serious errors in judgment — such as ignoring road conditions, traffic patterns, or other drivers — a fatigued truck driver can unwittingly cause a serious crash.

Driver fatigue can lead to some of the most serious truck accidents such as:truck drivers and truck accidents

  • Rear-end accidents. A rear-end accident occurs when a driver fails to stop in time to avoid colliding with the back of the vehicle in front of them.
  • Rollover accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines truck rollover as an “overturn” of a large commercial vehicle.
  • T-bone accidents. Also called side-impact crashes, these can occur when a tractor trailer collides with the side of another vehicle.

 What Should I Do If I Suspect My Truck Accident Was Caused By Truck Driver Fatigue?

Prior to your crash you might have noticed signs of inadequate sleep in the fatigued driver such as the truck weaving back and forth on the road, speeding, reckless driving, or more. Once the accident occurred, you want to get out and exchange information with the drowsy driver. At this point, you might notice other more personal signs of driver drowsiness and sleep deprivation such as them appearing tired, falling asleep, mumbling or hesitant speech, disorientation, or other signs of too little sleep.

If you notice any signs that indicate a lack of adequate sleep, you want to immediately mention this to the reporting law enforcement.

Next you want to immediately contact an experienced truck accident attorney. Munley Law has more than 60 years of experience in the field. We can help determine the contributing factors in your crash, request police reports, driver logs, “black box” data, and more. You might have severe injuries and you might feel overwhelmed by your medical bills and other losses. We can help you recover compensation and help you get your life back.

How Can You Prove Truck Driver Fatigue Caused the Truck Accident?

If you feel fatigued driving was the cause of your crash, you need an experienced truck accident attorney to investigate the driver’s trip records.

The “black box” contains all kinds of information about the truck at the time of the crash, from the truck’s speed to whether the brakes were applied. This kind of information about the driver’s actions at the time of the crash will be crucial to your case. All trucks are different and not all lawyers know how to obtain this data on every truck – Munley Law’s trucking accident lawyers do.truck crash driver fled scene truck accident attorney

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) requires that all commercial trucks record and report certain information. A “black box” is a blanket term that encompasses the kinds of devices that record that information, namely Electronic Control Modules (ECM), Event Data Recorders (EDR), and Electronic Logging Devices (ELD). These devices preserve technical vehicle data and occupant information about both a truck and its operator’s behavior. When a trucking accident occurs, black boxes can provide crucial information about how and why the catastrophic collision occurred.

Some truck drivers keep a logbook. This is a physical book kept by some commercial truck drivers. The trucking company expects the driver to use this to manually record their miles traveled and other trip data. We can use these accurate trip records for a commercial motor vehicle to help determine possible physical or mental exertion, whether the driver has had enough sleep, whether they were exercising proper off duty time, driving the legal limit, and other crucial data.

Do You Know Someone Who Was in a Truck Accident?

Munley Law truck accident attorneys have dedicated their careers to helping victims and their families recover for the losses, pain, and suffering caused by truck accidents. If you or someone who know was in a collision caused by truck driver fatigue, don’t wait–schedule your free consultation today.

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If you think you may have a personal injury case, contact us now for a FREE consultation.







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