Fatigue is a major risk factor for all drivers on the road – especially when it comes to those operating large commercial vehicles and semi-trucks. Driver fatigue can strike a person at any time; and, because of the mundane task of driving itself, it is not uncommon for truck drivers to become bored and tired even with adequate sleep. Estimates have suggested that fatigue is a major factor in a large percentage of fatal crashes in the United States.
The Issue with Driver Fatigue
Unfortunately, fatigue is not as easy to recognize as a contributing factor for accidents – unlike alcohol and illegal substances – because there is no test for fatigue. Therefore, it is likely that fatigue is highly under-represented in accident data.
While there is little doubt about the professionalism and talent of truck drivers, skill does not compensate for a lack of sleep. There are risks associated with fatigued driving, primarily because a driver cannot respond as quickly as he or she would, if the driver were fully rested. Truck drivers must work long hours – mostly at night – work irregular shifts, and even suffer from poor quality sleep – all of which contributes to a higher likelihood that a driver will become fatigued while amidst a long haul.
The Hours of Service and Rules
In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a rule to stop fatigued truck driving by making changes to their hours of service policy. This rule was complicated, but came down to the following:
- Drivers must take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of a haul, so that they may remain alert.
- Drivers must use a 34-hour rest period – known as a restart period.
Drivers are restricted to a restart period of at least two periods that commence between 1:00am and 5:00am – ensuring that all drivers are well-rested before they drive again. Also, the changes reduced the total number of hours that a driver could work from 82 hours per week to 70 hours per week.
While the FMCSA rules were helpful, they did not solve the issue of fatigued driving – and not all companies or drivers follow these rules. There are some drivers who operate at the maximum allowed operational hours, and some drivers are still operating under old rules that allow them to add a full work shift per week. Research has already shown that long work hours without recovery time has led to reduced sleep and chronic fatigue problems in drivers. The fatigue then leads to drivers being unable to react or assess situations with proper speed. One of the most dangerous issues is how quickly fatigue can take over a driver. Some drivers are unable to assess their own fatigue, and because they can doze off without knowing it, they are at high risk for causing serious injuries or deaths.
Were You Injured in an Accident With a Truck?
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle or truck, you may be entitled to compensation. Even if the driver was not fatigued, there could be other factors involved that caused the accident. To explore your options, contact the truck accident attorneys at Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. today. We offer free consultations – schedule yours by calling 1-877-737-4806 filling out our online contact form with your questions.