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Truck Driver Fatigue and Tractor-Trailer Accidents

Commercial drivers play a very important role in America’s infrastructure. Almost every product you use in your home, the materials used to build our business, and even the food we eat must be transported from its place of origin to the stores we know and enjoy. That being said, truck drivers are responsible for making sure that all of these items get to their final destination. While there have been numerous state, local, and federal laws that have attempted to address truck driver fatigue, it is a well-known fact that truck drivers are often overworked and under-rested which can lead to accidents on the road. Our trailer accident lawyers explain.

How does Fatigue Cause Accidents?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. Driving while you are tired and fatigued is a major problem for truck drivers and other commercial vehicle drivers. In an attempt to make delivery deadlines and to earn more money drivers will often forego sleep. This can be disastrous to those who are on the road. A fatigued driver is not as able to pay attention to the road, they experience a slowed reaction time, which can make it more difficult to brake or steer suddenly. If a driver does not get enough sleep they are not as able to make good rational decisions.

Sleep deprivation affects a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by increasing reaction time, degrading attention and vigilance, increasing distractibility and confusion.  Research has shown that fatigue can be as dangerous as other road safety issues, such as drunk driving.  However, unlike driving while intoxicated which is a heavily addressed issue, there have only recently been laws enacted that have been designed to address driver fatigue.

Laws affecting Drivers

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there is a rule that limits the time that drivers can be driving before resting.

  1. Off Duty –  The time when the driver is not on the job.
  2. Sleeper Berth – The time when driver rest in sleep cabin of a truck
  3. Driving – All time spent behind the wheel of a truck.
  4. On Duty – Not Driving – The time that when the driver is working until the job is done and includes all of the responsibility.
  5. “Driving” and “On Duty – Not Driving” time is the combination of the total time that the driver can be working

Truck drivers must  “log” their time, and location in a logbook

In December of 2011, the FMCSA issued a new rule, which is to stop any fatigued driving by changing the “hours of service” rules for truck drivers. The rule was somewhat complicated, which indicates the two new updated requirements. Firstly, for the first 8 hours of the truck drivers’ shifts, they need to take a 30 minutes break. Secondly, the truck drivers have to take a 34 hours rest period. The 2011 rule only lets the drivers use the restart option once every seven days and it required that the restart period includes at least two periods of rest between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.This would let the truck drivers have a full rest and catch up with their energy before working another shift. The net effect of these changes was to reduce the average maximum week a driver could work from 82 hours to 70 hours.

  • 14-hour duty limit.  Refers to a daily limit, meaning truckers may not exceed a 14-hour shift. Additionally, drivers must have 10-hour breaks between 14-hour maximum shifts.
  • 11-hour driving limit.  Refers to the driving limit within the 14-hour duty limit.  Drivers may only drive for 11 consecutive hours, with 10-hour breaks in between.
  • 60/70-hour duty limit.  Refers to a roughly weekly limit.  The ultimate number slides between 60 and 70 because the “weekly” limit is actually based on a 7- or 8-day period, referred to as “rolling” or “floating.”

Have you been injured because a Truck Driver Fell Asleep at the Wheel Call a Truck Accident Lawyer

If after everything is said and done you find that a truck driver was violating any of the laws regarding rest, then you might be entitled to receive some compensation. Contact the truck accident lawyers from Reiff Law Firm’s Truck Accident Team today by calling (215) 709-6940 today. We offer free and confidential consultations.

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