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Truck Driver Fatigue

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Drowsy Driving Causes Car and Truck Accidents

Drowsy 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

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 an 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.

  • $26 million
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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 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in twenty-five adults reported that they had fallen asleep behind the wheel in the last thirty days. Alarmingly, that same CDC study further found that truck drivers are much more likely than the average population to experience driver fatigue. Drowsy driving is dangerous for anyone, not just truck drivers, 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% of all accidents involving trucks are caused by exhaustion, insufficient sleep, or driver fatigue. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 21% 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. According to a study by the Department of Transportation (DOT), driver fatigue causes thousands of deaths every year.


Why 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. 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


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.


Do I Have A Case?

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

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