For as long as truck drivers have been paid to make certain delivery times and shippers have paid to have their products delivered by truck, drivers have been falling asleep at the wheel. A driver does not need to fall asleep, however, to have his or her driving impaired by fatigue. Fatigue impairs drivers in much the same way that alcohol intoxication does; a driver’s ability to perceive and react becomes increasingly diminished as the level of fatigue increases.
Truck driver fatigue is so significant that there are specific federal regulations that apply to all interstate tractor‑trailer drivers limiting the number of hours that a driver is allowed to drive.
According to FMCSR § 392.3:
No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired or so likely to become impaired through fatigue, illness or any other cause as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.
The Truck Driver Fatigue Rules Also Apply to Truck Companies
The truck driver fatigue regulations also apply to motor carriers such as truck companies. A motor carrier shall not permit a driver to continue driving when he is fatigued. And in the absence of direct monitoring of drivers, this implies that the carriers are required to train their drivers with regard to the causes of fatigue, recognition of fatigue, fatigue counter‑measures, and the company’s policies about driver fatigue.
Many carriers do not do such training. As a result, they can also be liable when fatigue is a factor in a truck crash. Punitive damages for truck driver fatigue can also be awarded against trucking companies.
Truck Driver Fatigue Evaluation
An evaluation of a car crash involving a truck requires an understanding of the interplay among the following: The economics of the trucking industry, how the crash occurred, the driver’s sleep/wake pattern in the days preceding the crash, time on task, time of day, the driver’s training, the driver’s health, company policies, and the fundamentals of the science of sleep.
Fatigue Should Be Carefully Investigated in Truck Accidents
Because fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents, I and our firm carefully investigate driver logs and other information to learn about the trucker’s driving and hours worked in the days prior to an accident. Our investigation does not assume that these records are accurate. We therefore engage in other investigation to determine whether driver logs are accurate.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident that involved truck driver fatigue, an important part of your case may depend upon this and other investigation that our firm can undertake. You should retain an attorney as soon as possible following the accident so that important evidence can be preserved.
Please call me to schedule a free, no-obligation private consultation so that we can meet with you and begin your case. There is no fee to us unless and until we win for you.