Driver Fatigue Truck Accidents

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Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of serious injuries and fatal truck accidents in the United States.  The U.S. Government published The Hours of Service Rules in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011, and they went into effect on February 27, 2012. Many of these rules apply specifically to truck drivers and trucking companies. One of the most important of these rules limits how much time a truck driver can spend behind the wheel. Trucking companies argue these limit their business, but safety always trumps business concerns.

The truck accident attorneys of Reiff & Bily’s The Truck Accident Team have over 100 years of combined award-winning experience in representing innocent victims catastrophically injured or killed in truck accidents. We have the skill and experience to address truck driver fatigue accidents. To schedule a private, no-cost evaluation, call our law offices at (800) 896-6173, or contact us online.

What are the Hours of Service Requirements?

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Drivers of large commercial trucks have a lot of responsibility as they drive down the road. The biggest concern for all drivers should be safety.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the number of hours truck drivers may operate to ensure that they do not drive tired.

No matter what the driver is hauling as cargo they must abide by three maximum duty time limits at all times in order to avoid driver fatigue and related truck injury accidents. They are the 14-hour “driving window” limit, 11-hour driving limit, and 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day duty limits.

  • 14-Hour Driving Window: This time frame is usually treated as a “daily” limit even though it is not based on a 24-hour period. A driver can only drive during a 14-hour window, then must rest for at least 10 hours. The 14-consecutive-hour driving window begins when a driver starts work and runs even through breaks and naps. Once a driver has reached the end of this 14-hour window, they cannot drive again until they take a full 10-hour break, even if they did not reach the 11-hour limit below.
  • 11-Hour Driving Limit: During the 14-hour period explained above, a driver of a commercial vehicle cannot drive for more than 11 hours. That shift, though, must start within eight hours of their last full-night’s rest.  Once a driver has hit their 11 hour driving limit he or she must take a total of ten consecutive hours off of duty before driving a truck again.
  • Thirty-Minute Rest Break: The hours-of-service regulations require a driver to take a half-hour break between every eight hours of driving.
  • 60/70-Hour Duty Limit: In addition to the limits that are explained above, there are 60 hour (or 70-hour) limits for commercial drivers. This time limit is based on a 7-day (or 8-day) period, starting at the beginning of the driver’s work period, not a calendar week. Between these hard limits of 60 hours in 7 days (or 70 hours in 8 days), drivers must take 34 hours off duty.

Who Must Comply with Hours of Service Requirements?

Most Truck drivers of large commercial vehicles must comply with the Hours of Service Requirements.  Therefore, any driver who is involved in interstate commerce and whose truck fits any of the following descriptions must comply with the Hours of Service Regulations:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver), not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver), for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

Truck Driving and Fatigued Drivers

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Truck drivers are often under pressure from their companies, suppliers, and customers to reach their destinations on time. However, as any driver will tell you, sometimes there are factors on the road that delay you and put you behind schedule. Truck drivers will often attempt to meet these strict deadlines by driving for extended periods of time. That means driving tired and violating hours of service rules. Fatigued drivers are a safety hazard for the driver, and for all others who share the road with a commercial vehicle. Driver fatigue may be due to a lack of adequate sleep, extended work hours, strenuous work or non-work activities – or a combination of other factors. A study titled the “Large Truck Crash Causation Study” reported that an estimated thirteen percent of all commercial motor vehicle drivers were considered “fatigued” when behind the wheel.

How Drivers can avoid Fatigue

First, get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel; nothing can replace sleep. Commercial drivers should attempt to get an adequate amount of sleep each night, and if possible, they should attempt to avoid driving when their body is naturally drowsy. Driver fatigue never sets in “suddenly” and a driver knows when they are getting tired.  A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that driver alertness was related to “time-of-day” more so than “time-on-task.” The study found that most people are less alert at night – especially after midnight. Additionally, drivers should:

  • Maintain a healthy diet – Truck drivers have gained a reputation of not having the healthiest diets. This is because of many factors including the fact that truckers work odd hours when healthier eating establishments are closed. Additionally, most drivers do not have access to a kitchen when on the road. These factors mean they are left eating fast food. However, one of the best ways to avoid tired and drowsy driving is to keep your diet packed with the proper vitamins and nutrients to keep you healthy and alert.
  • Take naps and breaks – Drivers are understandably pressured to make delivery appointments, however, if they are on the road and feel that you cannot maintain focus, then they should take a nap. Naps, while not as beneficial as a full night’s sleep, can provide clarity and energy to drivers. It is suggested that drivers take naps that last a minimum of ten minutes with an ideal time being 45 minutes. In addition, after taking a nap a driver should take at least 15 minutes after they wake from a nap before driving again.
  • Avoid Medication with adverse side effects – A commercial driver should always avoid medications that may make them feel drowsy. Many medications list on their label that they may cause drowsiness, and advise drivers not to take the medication when operating heavy machinery.

Were you Injured because a Driver was Asleep or driving tired? Contact Our Truck Accident Lawyers

Were you injured in a truck accident due to driver fatigue or any other issue?  To schedule a private, no-cost evaluation, call (800) 896-6173, or contact us online. If the statute of limitations expires, your window of legal opportunity will close and you won’t be able to pursue a claim. Contact us today to make sure you can get your case heard. Plus, with Reiff and Bily’s The Truck Accident Team, you only pay if there’s a financial recovery.

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