Truck Accident Lawyer Exposes a Major Problem in the Industry
Driver fatigue is a big problem in the trucking industry. Every year, nearly 4,000 people are killed and many more are severely injured on America’s highways in accidents involving 18-wheelers, big rigs, semi-trucks, and dump trucks. According to National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA), a significant percentage of these accidents are caused by fatigued drivers who doze off or fall asleep at the wheel. Talk to a truck accident lawyer to learn about truck accident claims.
What causes driver fatigue?
Driver fatigue is mainly caused by the following two factors:
- Lack of quality sleep and quantity of sleep: Many truck drivers drive up to 11 hours a day, which is the maximum number of hours allowed by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulations (FMCSR), and often 8 hours continuously without a break. Some of them may violate the Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules to meet their deadline. Some of them are awake for more than 17 hours. The result is that they do not get enough time to sleep. Another reason for lack of sleep is that many of them suffer from sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which closes the air passageway in their throat and disrupts their sleep. The result is that they do not get quality sleep.
- Driving at all odd hours: The human body has a biological clock (also referred to as the circadian rhythm) that regulates our sleeping and waking hours. When that rhythm is disrupted routinely, fatigue sets in and our body and mind fail to function at their optimal level. Truck drivers are often required to work at odd hours. Many of them usually drive at night – when they should be sleeping. The result is that they do not get enough sleep, which leads to what is called a “sleep debt”, which refers to the hours of sleep one owes to oneself and the only way to repay this debt is to sleep until that debt is fully repaid.
What are the symptoms of fatigue?
The problem with driver fatigue is that truck drivers often do not know that they are fatigued. This is very dangerous. The symptoms of driver fatigue include trouble focusing, head nodding, inability to keep the eyes open, difficulty in remember what happened in the last few minutes, slow reaction, poor judgment, daydreaming, constant yawning, rubbing one’s eyes frequently, zoning out, and drifting to the left. All of these impairs a driver’s performance and may lead to a serious accident.
What’s being done to combat driver fatigue?
The trucking industry as well as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the government agency that regulates the trucking industry in the USA, are concerned about driver fatigue and have been working to combat driver fatigue.
In 2011, the FMCSA issued the following rules, called Hours of Service (HOS) rules, designed to combat driver fatigue:
- A truck driver ‘may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours of off duty‘. This effectively limits the number of hours a truck driver is allowed to driver in a day to 11 hours.
- A truck driver ‘may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming to duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty‘. This rule effectively limits a truck driver’s working hours to 14 hours a day, whether he is actually driving or not.
- A truck driver ‘may drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes‘. This rule effectively limits a truck driver’s continuous driving hours to 8 hours.
- A truck driver ‘may not driver after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours of off duty’.
- A driver using sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
While these rules look good and adequate on print, they are obviously not enough to combat the problem because accidents are still happening due to driver fatigue. The ultimate responsibility to combat the problem lies with the driver himself. Each truck driver must ensure that he strictly adheres to the HOS rules. He must ensure that he gets enough sleep during his off-duty hours. If he is suffering from sleep disorders or addiction to drugs, then he must get treatment. The one and only cure for driver fatigue is to get enough sleep. Call a truck accident lawyer to find out about truck accident claims.
Last Updated: 03-24-2017