Truck drivers often drive long distances and work long hours. Not surprisingly, driver fatigue is a long-standing trucking industry problem and a critical safety issue for truckers and trucking companies. It can cause inattentive driving, reduced alertness, drowsiness, sleepiness behind the wheel, greatly impair a trucker’s ability to drive safely and increase the risk of injury and death to others on the roads. In extreme cases truckers have fallen asleep behind the wheel with disastrous results. Not surprisingly, the largest proportion of fatigue related big truck wrecks happen between 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m on straight roads at highway speed.
Overnight driving, extended work periods, split-shift work schedules, rotating or changing work schedules, unpredictable schedules, lack of nap or rest periods, poor diet, lack of exercise, sleep disruption, and environmental stressors are known risk factors associated with 18 wheeler accidents. While there are warning signs of truck driver fatigue like taking longer to react to situations and not performing traffic scans properly, it can be difficult to accurately measure a driver’s alertness level or the extent of which he or she has been deprived of sleep.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
To reduce big truck wrecks in Missouri, Kansas and other states, the federal government adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), a comprehensive set of rules covering many aspects of trucking company operations and commercial truck driving. The FMCSRs contain Hour of Service (HOS) rules. They are designed to reduce truck driver fatigue and truck accidents caused by tired, sleepy truck drivers operating 80,000 pound 18 wheelers, a truly scary prospect.
The HOS rules are detailed, technical and undergo periodic changes. For this page, let’s just say that the HOS rules limit the hours a trucker can drive or be on duty, contain requirements for breaks and numerous other rules designed to reduce driver fatigue and truck crashes caused by it. Driving more, or working longer than the HOS rules allow can result in 18 wheeler accidents and other big truck accidents due to drivers being inattentive, not reacting quickly enough and even falling asleep at the wheel.
Under the FMCSRs many truck drivers are required to keep a current log recording the dates and times they were driving, on-duty time and other information. This is so the trucking company, motor carrier inspectors and others can verify compliance with the HOS rules. Traditionally these logs have been kept in a paper log book. Some in the trucking industry refer to paper log books as “lie” books because they are easily falsified. Electronic logs are in the process of being adopted. Some of the reported benefits of electronic logs are reduced opportunities for exceeding permitted hours of service or log falsification.
Aside from the HOS rules, the FMCSRs include another rule which prohibits truckers from driving when their alertness or driving ability is impaired to the point that it is unsafe for them to drive the truck.
Hours of Service and Log Violations
Unfortunately, HOS and log violations are not uncommon. Some typical violations are driving more hours than the HOS rules allow, falsifying logs or not keeping them up to date. Your Kansas City attorney will probably want to request copies of the driver’s logs to determine if the driver was complying with the HOS rules or if the driver was on duty or had driven more that the rules allow.
At present, driver fatigue continues to be a major truck accident cause or contributing factor. National Transportation Safety Board data indicates that driver fatigue is a likely factor in 20 to 40 percent of all truck accidents. U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) data indicates that more than 80% of the general public believe that fatigued truck drivers are a severe threat to the safety of others.
Being injured in a truck accident caused by a fatigued trucker can be a life changing event. Victims can sustain serious injuries such as spinal cord injury, back injuries, head trauma, broken bones, disfigurement, amputations, whiplash, and burns. Fatalities can also occur.
If you or someone you love was seriously injured, disabled, or killed in a truck accident caused by fatigue, call Flick Law Firm as soon as possible. Since 1995, we have successfully handled big truck accident cases, and work hard to get you full and fair financial compensation for your accident-related damages, including medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.