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Truck Driver Fatigue

Saturday, January 11th, 2020 By

truck-driver-fatigue

A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study has shown that truck driver fatigue is one of the top leading causes of all collisions involving commercial trucks, and this study, of course, indicates that tired driving doesn’t always cause crashes but that it does certainly increase the overall likelihood of accident occurrences.

Although the FMCSA has implemented several different fatigue-related regulations and has also issued driving tips for avoiding driver fatigue, there are still grave issues surrounding the commercial trucking industry in terms of unrealistic scheduling expectations. Forcing commercial truck drivers to meet tight deadlines inevitably results in both fatigued driving and speeding, which combined together is a very dangerous duo.

Our team of personal injury specialists and truck accident attorneys has been serving the Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. areas for over 30 years, and our experience has helped us to become experts in the field of commercial truck accident litigation. We fully understand how catastrophic and devastating these types of injuries can be on the accident victim and their family, which is why we always remain vigilant for each of our clients in terms of collaborating experts and circumstantial evidence to provide you with the very best legal strategy possible.

If you or a family member has suffered an injury as a result of a truck driver’s fatigue, or any other negligent behavior, contact us for a free consultation so we can begin to review the facts surrounding your accident and formulate the beginnings of your legal recourse.

What Classifies as Driver Fatigue?

Driver fatigue is rather simply the combination of driving and general sleepiness, and the risks associated with commercial trucks and fatigued driving are staggering. According to FMCSA’s study, about 13 percent of the annual truck accidents within the United States occur due to driver fatigue.

The CDC has also collected data estimating that driver fatigue in 2013 was responsible for 72,000 collisions, around 44,000 injuries, and about 800 deaths. The CDC has also indicated that commercial truck drivers are much more likely than the general passenger vehicle population to become fatigued while driving, although the increased rate of likelihood is relatively unknown.

Truck Driver Regulations and Sleep Requirements

The FMCSA has mandated hours of service (HOS) regulations that all commercial truck drivers are required to follow, and these HOS rules are laws designed to combat truck driver fatigue by reducing the chances of tired truckers being on the road.

There’s an entire FMCSA guidebook to following these HOS requirements, and here we’re going to breakdown some of the important aspects of these guidelines:

14-Hour Driving Windows

14 hours is sometimes thought of as the “daily limit”, but this isn’t based upon a 24-hour period. The confusion with this regulation may be part of what leads to fatigued drivers remaining out on the road illegally.

Truck drivers are allowed to an overall period of 14 consecutive hours, but they’re only allowed to drive up to 11 hours of those 14 hours until they take an off-duty break for 10+ hours. This 14-hour window begins the moment a driver starts to work, so it doesn’t just include driving. Lunch breaks and other off-duty time doesn’t stop this 14-hour window clock, and once that 14-hour window has ended drivers must then take at least a 10-hour break before getting behind the wheel again.

11-Hour Driving Limit

As mentioned in the previous section, a truck driver can only drive for up to 11 hours within their allotted 14-hour work window. It’s also important to note that driving isn’t permitted if over 8 hours have passed since a trucker’s last 30-minute break.

30-Minute Rest Break

All truck drivers are required to take rest breaks of at least 30 minutes if they’ve been working for eight consecutive hours. This break includes any meal times.

60/70-Hour Duty Limits

This duty limit is many times referred to as the “weekly limit”, but this hour limit is not based upon any given workweek like most other jobs. This limit is based upon a “rolling” seven-day period, which means that the oldest day within a given seven-day stretch will drop off at the end of each workday in order to continuously calculate a truck driver’s on-duty hours for their past seven workdays.

This is important because many truck drivers will pack in their “weekly” hours in order to meet specific delivery deadlines, but each day consists of a specific drop off and subsequent addition of work hours in order for commercial truck drivers to comply with their seven-day work periods.

34-Hour Restart

In order for a commercial truck driver to restart their 60 or 70-hour duty limit clock, they’ll have to take 34+ consecutive off-duty hours.

What are the Effects of Fatigued Driving?

The CDC has stated that a lack of restful sleep is one of the most common causes of fatigued driving, but fatigued driving can also occur when someone is working a night shift, using alcohol and/or drugs, or is undiagnosed with a sleeping disorder.

Falling asleep at the wheel is obviously extremely dangerous, and fatigued driving can also have profound effects on any driver’s ability to maneuver a vehicle. These effects are only compounded for commercial truck drivers.

Fatigued driving can result in the following:

  • A general decrease in a driver’s capacity to properly concentrate on the road and surrounding vehicles.
  • Slower reaction times in the moments in which a driver must suddenly make a roadway maneuver or brake.
  • A negative impact on a driver’s decision-making abilities in terms of continuing to work, and how to operate their commercial vehicle.

Signs of Fatigued Driving

If an individual becomes tired while behind the wheel, there isn’t much they can do to prevent fatigue from impacting the quality of their driving. This is partly why it’s so important for commercial truck drivers to comply with HOS requirements, so they can ensure they’re getting the amount of rest they need.

The following are some common signs of fatigued driving that you can watch out for while you’re behind the wheel:

  • Frequent blinking or yawning.
  • Drifting in and out of designated lanes.
  • Missing an exit on the highway.
  • Having any kind of difficulty remembering the last few miles on the road.
  • Running over any rumble strips on the side of the highway.

Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Today

We know how devastating truck accident injuries can be, and how difficult it is to prove a liability within these types of accident cases. You’re always going to require the assistance of an experienced legal team no matter what type of accident you’re involved within, and our team of truck accident attorneys is here to support you or your loved one when it comes to successfully developing a settlement or lawsuit that covers all of the sustained damages.

At DuBoff & Associates, CHTD., we put everything into each and every one of our clients’ cases. So if you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving a commercial truck driver and potential driver fatigue, it’s crucial that you contact us for a free consultation so we can review the facts and help you devise a successful legal strategy towards obtaining your maximum, rightful compensation.

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