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Truck Driver Fatigue

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By and large, most professional drivers of large trucks are very responsible and follow all of the safety rules. On the occasions when rules are broken, statistics show that there are extreme top-down pressures from management placed upon drivers that are inconsistent with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules. Often these pressures to deliver at unreasonable rates can lead to driver fatigue. According to the FMCSA, truck driver fatigue is a common factor in trucking accidents. Although FMCSA has implemented regulations to try to reduce crashes caused by drowsy or fatigued driving, truck drivers often face unreasonable expectations for meeting scheduled deliveries. The tight deadlines can cause drivers to drive while fatigued and also speed: a potentially deadly combination.

Truck Driver Fatigue Statistics

According to the Large Truck Causation Study from the FMCSA, driver fatigue is a contributing factor in an average of 13 percent of trucking collisions in the U.S. every year. In fact, driver fatigue was estimated to have been a factor in 18,000 truck crashes during the period of the study. Furthermore, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that commercial truck drivers are much more likely to drive while fatigued when compared to other drivers. Because of the dangers posed by fatigued drivers, the FMCSA has developed rules and regulations that aim to prevent fatigued driving.

FMCSA Regulations to Curb Fatigued Truck Driving

  • The Hours of Service regulations are meant to keep truck drivers from driving too many hours in a day or a week so that they will be less likely to drive while experiencing truck driver fatigue.
  • The 14-Hour Limit rule limits truck drivers to working a total of 14 hours in a day, including no more than 11 hours driving. Under this rule, a driver cannot begin the 14 total hours until he or she has been off-duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. The 14-hour clock does not stop during the time taken off for breaks or naps. After the 14 consecutive hours have been reached, the driver must then take off 10 hours before driving again.
  • There is also a rule that truck drivers must take 30-minute rest breaks when they have worked for more than eight hours in a row since they took their last break. Any type of off-duty time counts toward this requirement, including meal breaks. However, the 30-minute rest break cannot be subtracted from the 14-hour window.
  • There is another rule that limits duties to 60/70 hours a week. This limit isn’t based on a regular week but is instead based on a floating seven- to eight-day schedule. Drivers cannot drive their trucks until the hours have met the 60/70 rule during any seven- or eight-day period.
  • The 34-Hour Restart Rule allows commercial drivers to restart the 60 or 70 hours once they take off from work for at least 34 consecutive hours.

How Fatigue Affects Driving

Drowsy driving is common when people have not slept well, but it also can happen for people who have undiagnosed conditions (like sleep apnea) or who work at night. When truck drivers fall asleep behind the wheel, it is dangerous. However, even if the drivers stay awake, their fatigue can interfere with their driving ability. Fatigued truck drivers may have trouble concentrating on other vehicles on the road. They may also have slowed reaction times, which can cause an accident if the driver has to make a sudden maneuver or brake to avoid accidents. Finally, fatigued drivers also may have more trouble making good driving decisions.

If drivers feel tired and have spent too many hours driving, they can’t do anything to prevent their fatigue from affecting their driving skills. However, the Hours of Service rules are meant to ensure that truck drivers stop working to get needed rest. All truck drivers should stop driving any time that they experience fatigue, even if they haven’t reached the specified limits.

Contact the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave represent people who have been seriously injured in accidents caused by a trucking company. If you have been seriously injured in a collision with a large truck, you may be entitled to recover damages from the responsible parties. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation by calling us at 417-322-2222 or sending us a message online.

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