Truck Driver Fatigue: A Deadly Danger

Thousands of crashes are caused by commercial truck driver fatigue

One of the chief reasons that 18-wheelers crash into smaller cars and trucks is truck driver fatigue. The National Transportation Safety Board estimates that tired truckers cause up to 13% of these collisions and admits that this number is under reported. Commercial truck wrecks horribly take the lives of close to 5,000 people a year.

This photo is from a case we resolved this year when the tractor-trailer driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth. This tragically caused the death of a woman on a motorcycle and serious injuries to our client and other people.

Texas sees far too many of these collisions. That is because we have the most miles of public roads (313,000), most licensed drivers (over 13 million), five of the top 13 most populated cities, and the busiest interstate highways.

Fatigued drivers cause thousands of truck crashes each year including heart-breaking ones like these:

  • A woman’s son and three of his friends were killed when a truck driver fell asleep and plowed into their vehicle; and
  • Two parents and their two young children were driving home when a trucker who was asleep at the wheel slammed into their vehicle, killing the family.
  • Tracy Morgan and his friends getting crashed into by a WalMart driver who had been driving for over 24 straight hours.

The problem of tired commercial truck drivers is a major problem. And it is getting worse, especially with the financial losses that many truck companies have suffered over the past few years. This has increased the pressure to move freight even faster across more crowded highways.

Why is truck driver fatigue such a problem?

Scientific surveys have shown that just getting one hour less sleep each night increases the chance of being in a truck accident. And drivers who just get four to five hours of sleep show the same symptoms as someone who is over the legal limit for driving while intoxicated?

But some commercial drivers sometimes go for up to 16 or more hours at a time and fall asleep at the wheel.

If you have been injured in a commercial truck accident, especially at night, you must always consider the possibility that the trucker was tired. We have been able to show this and that their company encouraged them to violate the hours of service rules.

How many hours can a trucker drive without stopping?

Not long ago, drivers kept paper log books, and sometimes had two sets – one for the government and one to get paid. To combat this problem, as of December 2017, electronic monitoring of hours is mandated by federal law. Not surprisingly, truckers and truck companies protested against the new requirements.

Federal regulations dictate how many hours commercial truck drivers can drive without taking breaks. Here is how the hours of service rules work.

  • The 60 – 70 hour limit:

This is a rolling seven or eight day period that is referred to as the week. If the driver works for eight days and drives for 70 hours, the current day is considered to be the newest day and he can’t drive until he has complied with that period’s total number of available hours. So if he has operating the commercial vehicle for 64 hours during eight days (eight hours a day), he is within the guidelines until he reaches 70 hours and must stop driving until he has rested. The problem is when the driver has been driving for 10 hours a day for eight days and does not stop driving.

  • The restart period:

After they reach the 60 or 70 hour maximum, they must stop driving for 34 hours. So if the driver reaches the maximum hours, he can’t drive until he goes below the 70 hours/eight days.

  • Maximum hours per day:

A truck driver cannot drive more than 14 straight hours, and only then up to 11 hours when he has not driven for 10 or more hours.

These can be manipulated.

Scary new federal proposals would weaken the hours of service requirements

It is shocking that at a time when our highways are more dangerous than ever, our government wants to relax the hours of service regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has already eased the rules, adding to truck driver fatigue.

While trucking companies obviously support the laxity, the driving public should be worried: Fatigued truck driver is serious problem on Texas roads

New hours of service regulations would create a 17-hour work window when the present 14-hour one is already too lenient. Allowing truck drivers to drive three more hours is a dangerous idea that must be opposed in the name of our safety.

We believe that the only way to keep our roads safe is to hold truck drivers accountable when they violate federal and state laws regulating the number of hours they are allowed to drive.

What causes these crashes?

Driving long distances is physically and mentally demanding. Added to that, many truckers compound the problem with the following:

  • Drug use: truck drivers take all kinds of illegal drugs to stay awake and feel good, including amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana.
  • Sleeping pills: drivers have to take these to make sure they can fall asleep during their irregular schedules. Then the trucker has to sleep cramped up in his sleeper berth, often on the side of a noisy highway. The pills can leave them groggy when they have to resume driving so they sometimes take “uppers” so they can start driving again.
  • Sleep apnea and other medical conditions: many of them suffer from serious medical problems and should not be allowed to drive. We resolved a case where an elderly truck driver with a known heart problem suffered a heart attack, veered off the road, and tragically killed our client’s son who was underneath another disabled tractor-trailer as he was about to have it towed away.

One of these problems can lead to another. For example, a tired truck driver can lack attention and may not see other vehicles, speed limit signs, or hazards. They may be more prone to combat fatigue by taking drugs to stay awake.  They may be stressed out as they try to meet deadlines or make more money when they are paid by the load.

How a truck accident lawyer can help you

A truck wreck lawyer goes after companies and their negligent drivers and holds them accountable. Berenson Injury Law investigates the liability facts of the crash immediately. We look for signs that the truck driver was exhibiting these behaviors before and at the scene of the crash:

  • Drifting and hitting rumble strip;
  • Tailgating;
  • Missing exit;
  • Yawning, blinking, looking half-asleep; and
  • Trouble remembering details

When we file a lawsuit, we subpoena the driver’s qualification file which contains his prior job history, testing, annual reviews, and disciplinary reports. We also demand logs and time sheets, delivery route, bills of lading, gas, meal, and hotel credit card receipts, vehicle inspections, and other pertinent information.

What damages can an injured victim receive?

If you are wondering how much your injury case may be worth, here is more information: How much money can you get from commercial truck insurance after crash?

Victims of truck collisions are eligible to receive compensation for the following:

1. Property damage to their vehicles and items damaged inside;

2. Rental vehicle while their vehicle is being repaired;

3. Medical bills for hospitals, doctors, physical therapy, and diagnostic tests;

4. Lost wages, lost benefits, and damage to their jobs and careers;

5. Physical pain and emotional suffering;

6. Scarring; and

7. Disability

Berenson Injury Law has nearly 40 years experience fighting for the victims of commercial vehicle accidents all over Texas and other states. If the trucker or trucking company involved in your crash was negligent, we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

For your free case review, contact us today at 1-888-801-8585 or email us online.


Share This Post