Trucker Fatigue Still a Major Concern

Truck driver in blue truck wearing plaid shirt and yawning

Verdicts and Settlements Obtained for Clients

The Trucking Attorneys at Fried Goldberg have obtained highly favorable verdicts and settlements for truck accident victims, including:

$20 million for a client whose car was struck by a tractor-trailer that ran a red light, resulting in a severe brain injury 

$7.65 million awarded to a client whose car rolled over after a tractor-trailer changed lanes into her car, causing disfigurement and facial scars.  

$5 million for a woman who sustained multiple bone fractures after her vehicle was rear-ended by a large truck in Bryan County, Georgia.    

In Illinois, a truck crashed on I-88 in Aurora, killing a toll worker and injuring a state trooper. According to the Chicago Tribune, prosecutors allege that the driver, Renato V. Velasquez, was nearing the end of a 36-hour marathon shift. Federal laws impose strict regulations on truck driver hours, as fatigued driving can result in serious accidents and injuries.   

Truck drivers are required to keep driving logs that track their work hours, which helps to prevent truckers from overworking and becoming too tired. Many large trucking companies have gone to electronic reporting, which is much harder to falsify than traditional paper logs. 

Over the years, there have been disturbing accounts of these logs being falsified by the driver, oftentimes under pressure by the trucking company. This can lead to situations where a truck driver proceeds to drive while under the dangerous condition of being drowsy or sleepy. 

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The Truck Accident Attorneys at Fried Goldberg have extensive experience handling truck accident cases where the driver was exhausted or fatigued, in violation of trucking laws and safety standards. We have achieved highly successful verdicts and settlements for our clients through skilled representation and an understanding of the laws specific to truck accident cases. 

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What is Truck Driver Fatigue?

Truck driver fatigue results when a commercial truck driver continues to operate their vehicle even if they feel sleepy or drowsy. This dangerous combination leads to thousands of crashes and hundreds of deaths each year. 

Truck drivers are more susceptible to driver fatigue than the general population, even with driver fatigue regulations in place. So what causes truck driver fatigue? The fatigue can arise from:

  • Working long hours
  • Driving conditions that create sleepiness (such as dark roads or rainy weather where the sun is not out)
  • Driving after eating heavy meals or taking medication
  • Health and physical fitness issues
  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Sleep apnea

This last issue, sleep apnea, can create problems even if the driver is sleeping a normal amount of hours. Breathing problems during sleep can deprive a person’s brain of oxygen, resulting in a sleepy or groggy state during normal waking hours. 

Truck Driver Fatigue Laws

In order to help prevent truck drivers from driving while in a state of fatigue, commercial drivers must abide by hours of service (HOS) regulations, which are set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These truck driver fatigue rules are designed to reduce driver fatigue, enforce breaks, and keep truckers from driving from extended periods of time. 

The HOS rules can be somewhat complex and involve the following provisions:

  • 14-Hour Driving Window: Commercial truck drivers are only allowed to work during a period of 14 consecutive hours, in which they can drive up to 11 hours, after being off-duty for ten more consecutive hours. The 14 hours begin once any work is done (including logging, etc., not just driving). Once they have reached the 14-hour work limit, they cannot drive again unless they have been off-duty for another 10 hours. 
  • 11-Hour Limit on Driving: Truck drivers can only drive for 11 hours within the designated 14-hour driving window. In addition, no further driving is allowed if more than 8 hours have passed since the person’s last off-duty period, or sleep period of at least 30 minutes.
  • Rest Break: Truck drivers must take a 30-minute break for rest if more than eight consecutive hours have passed since their last off-duty period of at least a half-hour. 
  • Duty Limit/Weekly Limit: Truck drivers are subject to 60/70 hour work limits during a week (rolling period of seven or eight days). They may “restart” their 60/70 clock calculations after taking 34 or more hours off-duty. 

Trucker Fatigue Can Be Difficult to Prove

Unlike drugs or alcohol, there is no definitive test for fatigue. A severely fatigued driver may be as impaired as a drunk driver, but without black-or-white evidence like a blood alcohol level, how can a truck driver fatigue be discovered? 

The answer lies in the driver’s logs. When kept accurately, these logs may directly reveal non-compliance and fatigued driving. When falsified, however, there are still ways to discover a fatigued driver. They include:

  • Comparing the time stamp on fuel receipts to reported locations
  • Comparing time between fuel stops or port of entries in consideration of speed limit and road conditions
  • Looking for suspicious entries, such as the exact same time recorded for port of entry logs on subsequent trips

Further, accidents associated with fatigue do not always occur at times you might associate with this danger. An accident that occurs in the afternoon may be the result of a trucker driving all night and into the day, or the result of sleeping scant hours before once again hitting the road. 

In addition, accidents that appear to have been the result of speed can also involve fatigue. Tired drivers often drive faster in order to make it to their destinations faster, especially if they are struggling to stay awake while driving. This increased speed combined with delayed reflexes due to fatigue can be deadly. Fatigue is a factor that should always be considered when long-haul commercial vehicles are involved in a crash.

Truck driver wearing black hat and vest covering mouth while yawning

Trucker or Trucking Company — Who Is to Blame?

Every truck driver has a responsibility to keep an accurate driver log and follow federal regulations. But they are not the only culpable ones. Drivers have reported being put under tremendous pressure to falsify their logbooks and flout regulations by their employers. 

Certain trucking companies may have more issues with driver fatigue than others. For instance, the driver involved in the deadly Illinois crash mentioned above was employed by a company named DND, according to the Tribune. In terms of unsafe driving practices, the company DND ranks among the top 10% – which means that 90 percent of trucking companies are safer, the Tribune reported, citing federal records. DND’s rap sheet allegedly includes 11 allegations of drivers falsifying their hours.

Thus, depending on the circumstances, the truck driver, the trucking company, or both may be held liable for accidents caused by fatigue or exhaustion. 

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney If You Have Been Injured

Non-compliance with the laws governing working hours and falsifying driver logs are federal crimes and can be prosecuted at a federal level. For accident victims, however, it may be necessary to pursue a case in civil court as well. Injuries or wrongful death that result from truck accidents can be financially devastating to the victims. 

Factors such as fatigue, the regulations governing driving time, and the split responsibility of the trucker and the company are examples of factors that make truck accident cases unique. Filing a lawsuit can also help uncover unsafe practices or policies maintained by a commercial trucking company. 

If you were injured or you lost a loved one in a trucking accident, you need an attorney who is experienced in these types of cases. The Truck Accident Attorneys are nationally recognized as attorneys who focus on accidents involving commercial vehicles. If you have been involved in an accident involving a tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle, please contact us immediately at 877-591-1801 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Truck Driver Fatigue FAQs

What causes truck driver fatigue?

In most cases, truck driver fatigue is caused by drivers working overly long hours with no breaks or rests, and insufficient sleeping time. This is the main reason the hour and break laws have been instituted. However, even with such measures in place, drivers can still get fatigued, as truck driving can often be stressful and taxing.

Besides a lack of rest, fatigue can also be caused by other factors. The main one is sleep apnea, where breathing issues during sleep cause a person to lack oxygen and wake up tired even after sleeping normal lengths of time.

Other health issues, such as weight issues or poor physical fitness can also contribute to feelings of fatigue or exhaustion. 

How do you combat truck driver fatigue?

For truck drivers, it’s important that you actually don’t resist driver fatigue if it sets in. It’s advisable to pull over and rest instead, rather than taking measures to try and fight the fatigue. Driver fatigue can be avoided in the first place by following laws and regulations on truck driving hours, which are designed to avoid long stretches without a break or sleeping time.  

If fatigue or drowsiness sets in suddenly, the truck driver should do their best to reach a  safe place to pull over and rest. As they do so, it can help to take some measures to stay awake, such as listening to music or opening the window for fresh air. Again, prevention is the best strategy. 

For non-commercial drivers, if you notice a truck driving dangerously, it could be a sign that the driver is fatigued. You should keep your own vehicle a safe distance from them, and report them to highway authorities when it is safe to do so. 

What types of damages are available in a truck driver fatigue lawsuit?

As in other types of truck accidents, a truck accident involving driver fatigue can result in significant damages or settlement awards for the injured party. 

These will typically cover losses and expenses such as hospital and medication bills, lost wages (for instance, during recovery times), a loss of the ability to generate future wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. A skilled truck accident lawyer can negotiate for the maximum recovery amount. 

How can a truck accident lawyer help?

As you can see, accident liability based on truck driver fatigue can involve some complex and nuanced legal concepts. A truck accident lawyer can help research the applicable laws, examine the events leading up to the accident, and determine an effective legal strategy.  

You can get in touch with the experienced attorneys at Fried Goldberg at 877-646-2006 for a free consultation to determine how best to proceed with your case. 

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