Truck driver fatigue is extremely common. This can be seen on roadways in Florida and across the country daily. While it’s a common cause of deadly truck accidents, it’s also 100% preventable.
Learning more about trucker fatigue is a viable way to help keep it from continuing to happen. Here you can learn about trucker fatigue, what causes it, and what is being done to keep others on the road safe.
If you are involved in an accident with a fatigued truck driver, our West Palm Beach truck accident lawyer at Fetterman & Associates, PA, can help you recover the compensation you are entitled to.
Truck Driver Fatigue Defined
Cases of truck driver fatigue occur because of inadequate sleep resulting from driving while sick or working too many hours. This is an extremely dangerous impairment and the cause of many fatal accidents.
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), which is the federal agency responsible for regulating and policing trucking companies and drivers to ensure they follow safety requirements on roads throughout the state and nation, defines truck driver fatigue as the result of mental or physical exertion that impairs driver performance.
In fact, some studies have determined that this is a more serious driving impairment than being impaired by drugs or alcohol. While this is true, many truck drivers are still “bending” the rules to maximize the amount of time they can be behind the wheel.
How Truck Driver Fatigue Puts Public Safety at Risk
It’s been observed that almost 4,000 people die in truck accidents every year, with driver fatigue being a leading factor.
Driver fatigue negatively affects several functions drivers need to perform safely on the road, including their judgment, vision, coordination, and reaction time. A fatigued driver may veer into oncoming traffic if they fall asleep, which can cause a deadly head-on collision. They may also forget to check their blind spot before they change lanes. There are multiple blind spots on large trucks, which can cause a side-swipe collision.
Sleep deprivation and driver fatigue symptoms are like the ones seen in drivers who have been drinking. Twenty-four hours of sleep deprivation can result in drivers being impaired to the point where they drive as though they have a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.10%, which is over the legal limit.
Common Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
You may wonder why so many truck drivers are fatigued on the road. There are several reasons this happens.
According to federal law, commercial truck drivers must limit their service hours without breaks. It’s required that they take a break after 11 hours of non-stop driving, and after driving for 11 hours, they must take 10 hours off. It’s also required that truck drivers stop driving after being on the road for 14 hours. No driver is allowed to drive over 60 hours in a single week or over 70 hours in eight days.
Unfortunately, there are several problems with the federal rules.
First, it’s possible for truck drivers to become fatigued even if they obey these laws. Driving for eleven hours is a long time and can be quite fatiguing. Also, 60 hours per week and 70 hours in eight days is a lot of time behind the wheel and on the road.
Additionally, the realities of how rules are enforced are challenging. Drivers don’t have regular 9 AM to 5 PM schedules. Because of this, it may be almost impossible to develop a regular sleep pattern that ensures they can get adequate sleep when they aren’t on the road. While they must be off for 10 hours before driving up to 11 consecutive hours without a break, it’s not mandated that they sleep for the entirety of the 10 hours. If a driver has an irregular sleep schedule, it can make sleeping during these 10 hours challenging.
Some truck drivers are tempted to use sleep aids to get more sleep or substances to feel more awake. Unfortunately, these substances can impair their judgment, reflexes, response time, and ability to drive safely. Worldwide, around 21% of commercial truck drivers admit to using some type of amphetamine. While these can help them feel more alert, it doesn’t result in improved driving and, for some, may cause impairment.
Another reason many truck drivers are fatigued while behind the wheel is that they feel pressured to drive, regardless of whether they are fatigued or not. When this happens, they often exceed Federal limits. Pressure can come from several sources, including the trucking company they are employed by and subcontractors. For example, trucking companies make money by delivering cargo.
In many cases, this cargo must travel long distances. Truck drivers may feel they must meet the deadlines set. Since trucking companies don’t consider things like the possibility of accidents, construction delays, and traffic patterns, many drivers feel like they must drive more to meet the set deadline.
Some trucking companies even set unreasonable and unsafe deadlines. This makes drivers more likely to be involved in actions that cause accidents, such as working longer without breaks, violating Federal standards, and speeding.
Some truck drivers are paid by mile rather than by the hour. If they are delayed because of construction, traffic jams, or an accident, they may feel like they must make up the time to protect their financial situation. Because of this, they may speed or drive longer than Federal guidelines allow.
It’s also worth mentioning that truckers who don’t operate interstate commerce are not required to follow federal regulations. Instead, they must follow state regulations. Unfortunately, Florida’s state standards are more lex than the federal standards.
Do You Believe Trucker Fatigue Caused or Contributed to Your Accident?
Unfortunately, proving truck driver fatigue caused your accident can be challenging. While this is true, a truck accident law firm can review the facts of your case and help gather evidence that proves driver fatigue was a contributing or leading factor in the collision.
Many rollovers and collisions involving trucks have driver fatigue as a cause because these types of truck accidents result from slow reflexes or poor judgment. It’s also possible to see a commercial truck speeding or weaving in and out of traffic before an accident occurs, and fatigue may cause these actions. A truck driving in oncoming traffic or an out-of-control truck may indicate that the driver has fallen asleep. Judgment errors, like pulling into oncoming traffic, may also indicate fatigue.
If you are involved in an accident with a large truck, you may stop to exchange information with the driver. At this point, you may observe symptoms of fatigue, such as appearing tired, hesitant speech, stumbling, and bleariness. If you notice these signs, you should do two things:
- Tell the law enforcement officers who respond to the accident about what you observed so it is included in the accident report.
- Contact an attorney who understands the truck accident law in Florida to help gather further evidence to prove the truck driver’s fatigue led to or contributed to the accident.
Types of Evidence Use to Prove Truck Driver Fatigue Contributed to Your Accident
When you hire an attorney, they will look for certain types of evidence to determine if the truck driver was fatigued and if this contributed to the accident. Some of the evidence gathered in these cases includes:
Information from the Truck’s Record
Drivers must record their service hours using a few different methods. Many newer trucks have a built-in system that records a driver’s hours on the road. Some of these systems just monitor, while others don’t won’t allow the driver to continue driving after the daily or weekly limits have been reached.
Older trucks still use logbooks. With these, the drivers must enter hours manually. They use the books to track the total miles driven instead of the hours. However, the total mileage can be used to estimate how long they have been on the road and if fatigue was a potential factor in an accident. Drivers are often paid based on the information in the logbooks, which gives them the incentive to keep accurate records.
Information Provided by Other Records
If logbooks or in-cab monitoring records aren’t available, your attorney can look at other records. In some accidents, records and logbooks are destroyed. Drivers may do this intentionally if they believe the records would show they were fatigued.
Some of the other records that may prove a truck driver was fatigued when your accident occurred include the following:
- Toll receipts
- Gas receipts
- Hotel receipts
- Bills of lading
- Surveillance camera footage
Who Is Responsible for Accidents Caused by a Fatigued Driver?
Truck drivers are expected to operate their trucks responsibly and safely. This includes ensuring they don’t drive when they are drowsy or fatigued. If the truck is not being operated responsibly or safely, then the driver has failed this duty of care and can be considered negligent if the failure resulted in an accident that caused property damage or injuries.
While this is true, other parties may be partly responsible for these types of accidents. For example, the trucking company may be considered entirely or partly at fault if it is proven they pressured the drivers or encouraged them to violate federal standards.
Also, all accidents can have several causes. If another driver has violated the right-of-way rules and the action is entirely or partially responsible for the accident, the other driver may have been at-fault for the accident, no matter if the driver is found to be fatigued or not.
Truck accidents are almost extremely complex. Improper truck loading or inadequate maintenance can result in accidents, which makes braking and steering challenging. These problems can result in an accident, entirely or partly. If that happens, the entity responsible for maintaining or loading the truck may be considered responsible, whether it is a subcontractor or trucking company.
Defective equipment may also result in an accident. If this happens, the manufacturer or other entities may be considered responsible for your accident.
Road conditions may also contribute to a truck accident. Your attorney will consider all these factors.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney for Help with Your Truck Accident Case
If you are involved in a truck accident, our personal injury lawyers at Fetterman & Associates, PA, is here to help. Call our offices to schedule a free initial consultation. We will help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and damages.