Semi Truck Accidents

Driver Fatigue

Did you know that there are well over 8,000,000 large trucks on the road every day.  Unfortunately, some of these drivers are operating their trucks, despite the fact they have not had enough rest or enough sleep.  Driver fatigue is one of the biggest causes of trucking disasters. Yet many large companies pressured by profit margin and the stock market put delivery times and delivery schedules over driver safety.

When commercial drivers become fatigued from excessive daily and weekly work hours, they substantially increase the risk of crashes that result in death or serious injuries. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 750 people die and 20,000 more are injured each year due directly to fatigued commercial vehicle drivers.

Rules implemented by The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2003 allow tractor-trailer truck drivers to drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. Also, tractor-trailer truck drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on-duty, following 10 hours off-duty. Similar to existing rules, tractor-trailer truck drivers may not drive after being on-duty for 60 hours in a seven-consecutive-day period or 70 hours in an eight-consecutive-day period. This on-duty cycle may be restarted whenever a tractor-trailer truck driver takes at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

Short-haul tractor-trailer truck drivers—those tractor-trailer truck drivers who routinely return to their place of dispatch after each duty tour and then are released from duty—may have an increased on-duty period of 16 hours once during any seven-consecutive-day period. The 16-hour exception takes into consideration legitimate business needs without jeopardizing safety. FMCSA estimates that without the extra two on-duty hours, the industry would be required to hire at least 48,000 new drivers, actually reducing crash-reduction benefits.

The current rule allows 10 hours of driving within a 15-hour on-duty period after eight hours of off-duty time. Also, tractor-trailer drivers may not drive after their 15th hour on duty in a workday or after 60 hours on-duty in seven consecutive days or 70 hours on-duty in eight consecutive days.

If you have been injured or a loved one has been injured or killed in a fatal Texas tractor-trailer truck accident, it is important to consider your legal options. Many truckers are employed by large corporations that may put delivery of their goods ahead of your safety. Don't pay for the transportation industry's greed.

Many are unaware that driver fatigue is one of the most common causes or factors in eighteen wheeler and trucking accidents. It is important to understand that driver fatigue is not only a hazard, but is all too often a violation of Department of Transportation Regulations.

The Department of Transportation prescribes the maximum hours a operator of an 18 wheeler can drive and the required rest periods. The DOT Regulations differ for drivers that are hauling material or property verses those that transport passengers. The Government Regulations mandate the maximum number of consecutive hours a driver may drive as well as the maximum consecutive hours a driver may be on duty, whether actively driving or not. Additionally, the rules stipulate a maximum number of hours that a driver may be on duty within a seven or eight day period depending on whether the company operates every day of the week. Finally, the DOT regulations outline the requirements for record keeping in the driver’s log where he records his duty status for every 24 hour period. 

When a proper investigation is conducted after an accident to determine whether driver fatigue played a role in the accident, there are several factors that must be considered. Our Law Firm can review the driver’s log to determine the number of hours of driving leading up to the accident. When interviewing or deposing the driver, an experienced attorney will inquire about the driver’s period of rest or sleep immediately prior to the accident as well as his long-term sleep activity and driving schedule. This information when compiled together can be a good indicator of whether driver fatigue was a factor in the accident.

If driver fatigue is determined to be a contributing factor, an experienced lawyers will then look at the driver’s working conditions to see if his work environment or company guidelines contributed to his lack of rest and thus determine liability of the trucking company. A driver’s working conditions can be a factor contributing to driver fatigue. Drivers who are paid by the mile or by the load have a financial incentive to drive without sufficient periods of rest. The faster they complete load and the more miles they cover result in higher pay outs for the driver. Often the trucking company will encourage drivers to work longer hours to benefit the company’s bottom line.

For immediate assistance, call us toll-free at 1.800.862.1260

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