Federal regulations permit commercial truck drivers to spend up to 11 consecutive hours behind the wheel and up to 70 hours driving over the course of an 8-day period. That is a lot of driving, much of which is done at night and on long, monotonous stretches of highway. Furthermore, research has shown that many truck drivers exceed the federal “hours of service” limitations, spending even more time behind the wheel.
These long hours make truck drivers particularly at risk for driving while fatigued and potentially even falling asleep in the driver’s seat.
The Facts on Truck Drivers and Drowsy Driving
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are nearly 4,000 fatal large truck accidents every year. This is in addition to tens of thousands of other accidents that result in serious but non-fatal injuries. Among fatal commercial truck accidents, the U.S. Department of Transportation notes that “driver fatigue is a leading factor.” A study reported by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that 13 percent of truck drivers involved in accidents were fatigued at the time of the crash.
Also, according to the FMCSA:
- When a person doesn’t get enough sleep, the natural “lulls” in the day caused by the circadian rhythm, “can be even stronger and may have a greater adverse effect on a driver’s performance and alertness.”
- While “time on task” is a factor in causing fatigue (as well as susceptibility to distractions), time of day has an even more-direct correlation to drowsiness. As a result, truck drivers who drive overnight are often at the greatest risk for falling asleep behind the wheel.
- According to one study, truck drivers are more likely to cause accidents during the first hour of a shift. This may be due getting into the driver’s seat promptly upon awakening. Driving under the influence of sleep inertia, which is the “impairment in a variety of performance tasks, including short-term memory, vigilance, cognitive functioning, reaction time, and ability to resist sleep,” is another dangerous form of fatigued driving.
Liability for Accidents Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue
When a drowsy truck driver causes an accident, who is responsible for the victims’ losses? While the truck driver will almost certainly be responsible, like the rest of us, truck drivers typically will not have the resources and insurance needed to fully cover the damages resulting from a serious truck accident. These damages can include outstanding medical bills, the cost of future medical treatment, loss of income, pain and suffering, and other losses, and can easily add up to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
Fortunately, in many cases, the truck driver’s employer can also be held financially liable for the truck driver’s mistake. For more information, read our previous article: Victims’ Rights in Collisions Involving Commercial Vehicles.
Speak With a Crestview Auto Accident Attorney Today
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a commercial truck accident, we encourage you to contact us to speak with an attorney about your rights. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call (850) 682-2757 or contact us online today.