Every day, millions of Americans share the roads with large trucks. Commercial motor vehicles are the backbone of the economy, transporting raw materials, food, medicine, and other essential goods.
Due to their size and weight, large trucks pose a significant danger. As a result, commercial truck drivers must pass rigorous testing and training to obtain their positions. When truckers drive fatigued, they put everyone on the road at risk.
Do Truck Drivers Have to Adhere to Special Rules and Regulations?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates commercial vehicles, including passenger buses and freight carriers. Drivers must pass the Commercial Driver’s License Program to obtain a CDL license that permits them to drive large transport vehicles.
In addition, the FMCSA has set forth strict rules for operating commercial trucks, whether as an independent driver or an employee of a larger trucking company.
To prevent truck driver fatigue, the FMCSA has set strict hour regulations regarding how many hours truck drivers can work. This is incredibly important because when drivers are fatigued, they have slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and can even fall asleep at the wheel.
The Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations for truck drivers include:
- Drivers can drive a maximum of 11 consecutive hours, but only after 10 consecutive hours off duty
- Drivers have permission to split the 10-hour off-duty period as long as the break is a minimum of two hours long and the larger break is spent sleeping
- Drivers must take one 30-minute break every eight hours
- Drivers must not drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days
- After a driver has met their maximum hours for the week, they must spend at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty
Passenger carriers like buses have similar hours of service regulations. All commercial vehicles have exceptions for short-hauls. For example, truck and bus drivers are required to log their hours. Also, trucking companies must track their drivers’ activity electronically.
However, if a trucker claims the short-haul exemption, they do not have to record their driving hours or report their whereabouts to the company. Some short-haul truck drivers may operate their vehicles outside the hours of service without a record. If you are involved in a truck driver fatigue accident, it is crucial to gather as much evidence as possible to support a violation of the FMCSA’s HOS.
Truck Driver Fatigue Can Cause Devastating Traffic Collisions
Working hour regulations were instituted to help reduce the number of truck driver fatigue accidents. Unfortunately, truck drivers are under immense pressure to make their hauls promptly, regardless of weather or driving conditions.
The pandemic and the current recovering economy added more strain to an already high-stress job. Some truck drivers may feel compelled to ignore FMCSA regulations. Despite the demands from employers and clients, there is no excuse for fatigued driving. Both truck drivers and trucking companies have a responsibility to operate safely.
How Dangerous is Truck Driver Fatigue?
Truck drivers have a demanding schedule, which often translates to drivers cutting corners and making other unsafe choices on the road. According to data collected by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in the last reporting year:
- Large trucks were involved in 1.3 fatal collisions per 100 million miles traveled
- 85 percent of those deaths were the occupants of the other vehicle, bike riders, motorcyclists, and pedestrians
- Truck driver fatigue is responsible for 31 percent of fatal accidents involving commercial vehicles
- More than 19 percent of truckers admitted to dozing while operating their commercial vehicle in the last month
- 21 percent of truck drivers admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel
The report went on to show that truck driver who operates their vehicles for more than eight hours at a time are twice as likely to be involved in a traffic collision. In addition, researchers discovered a correlation between drivers who report HOS violations and falling asleep while operating their tractor-trailers.
How Fatigue Affects Truck Drivers on the Road
Several studies have explored the dangers of fatigued driving. Historically, fatigue has been a significant factor in traffic collisions. Its effects have led to changes in the scheduling policies of carriers, the design of large trucks and buses, and fatigue detection technology.
According to a recent study, fatigue can cause the following:
- Slower response times, similar to alcohol-impaired driving
- Poor driver attention
- Impaired decision making
- Drifting from lane to lane
- Experiencing “tunnel vision,” or the perceived loss of peripheral vision
- Microsleeps, or brief episodes of sleep that can last from a fraction of a second to 30 seconds
- Increased forgetfulness
Truck driver fatigue is preventable if operators adhere to their HOS and drive responsibly. However, there are other causes of fatigue that can increase the risk of a deadly trucking crash.
What Causes Most Truck Driver Fatigue?
Violating the hours of service can contribute dramatically to the risk of truck driver fatigue. However, there are other causes.
Some of the most common factors in truck driver fatigue include:
- Over-the-counter medications: Some over-the-counter medications contain ingredients that can make a person drowsy. The FDA requires medications to have accurate warning labels. Many medications warn patients not to operate heavy machinery or drive.
- Being overworked: Regardless of the profession, long working hours over time can cause fatigue. Due to time constraints and the pressure of deadlines, truck drivers spend several consecutive hours behind the wheel.
- Untreated sleep disorder: Several sleep disorders can cause or worsen fatigue during the day. Sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and more can significantly impact sleep quality and increase fatigue.
When sleep disorders are left untreated and other factors are not addressed, drivers can cause catastrophic truck accidents.
You Deserve Experienced Representation for Your Truck Driver Fatigue Accident
Truck drivers must be held accountable for the devastation they cause. Truck driver fatigue is easily preventable. Violations of the FMCSA hours-of-service are inexcusable. If you or a loved one have been hurt in a Texas trucking accident, contact our experienced truck accident lawyers today.