Truck Accidents Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue
Vero Beach Truck Accident Attorney Explains Leading Cause of Truck Crashes
Driving a big rig requires a truck driver’s full attention and ability to drive safely and competently. Drivers must be completely alert and at top mental capacity for long stretches, and prudence (as well as federal law) requires that they stop and take breaks as needed to maintain that mental performance. Yet at the same time drivers are under constant pressure from the trucking companies to make their deliveries on a tight schedule where they are pressed for time, only to turn around soon after and start another long-haul.
It’s no wonder that truck driver fatigue plays such a large role in truck accidents, yet truckers and trucking companies continue to violate hours of service rules and falsify their duty logs to hide the fact they are driving under dangerous conditions. Vero Beach truck accident attorney Keith Bregoff knows how to investigate a truck accident and determine if truck driver fatigue was a contributing factor. He’ll hold truck drivers and their carriers accountable for the damage they have caused, and he’ll help truck accident victims get the care and compensation they need after being injured in a serious Vero Beach truck accident.
Vero Beach Truck Accident Statistics and Driver Fatigue
In the largest-scale study of truck accidents to-date, the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, investigators took a representative sample of truck accidents drawn from 120,000 crashes over a 2.5 year period. They concluded that truck driver fatigue was among the top ten factors responsible for truck accidents and that fatigue was cited in 13% of the crashes studied. In Florida’s own most recent Traffic Crash Facts report, there were 307 commercial motor vehicle crashes in Indian River County in 2016, tragically resulting in four fatalities and 5o injuries.
Federal Rules Limit Truck Driver Time Behind the Wheel
Understanding the importance of a well-rested driver and the dangers of driving to the point of fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has adopted hours of service rules limiting how long a truck driver can be on duty and behind the wheel before taking a rest. Unfortunately, the trucking industry lobby has exerted its influence in the rulemaking process, so that truckers actually work some of the longest shifts around. Consider these FMCSA Hours of Service rules:
- Truckers can be behind the wheel for up to 11 hours before being required to take ten hours off
- Truckers can be on duty (including driving and non-driving time) for 14 hours before being required to take ten hours off
- Truckers can work up to 60 hours for seven days in a row, or up to 70 hours for eight days in a row, before being required to take a 34-hour break to restart their “week.” A recent rule modification requiring two overnight periods within this break was quickly suspended before it ever went into effect.
- Truckers can drive up to eight hours before being required to take a 30-minute rest, with some exceptions for “short-haul” drivers.
Truckers Routinely Violate Federal Rules and Drive Longer than is Safe
Despite these generous rules allowing truckers to stay on duty long after most people would be understandably fatigued, drivers routinely violate these rules and drive even longer, falsifying their records in an attempt to avoid getting caught. In the 2018 Roadcheck, an annual three-day period of roadside inspections and enforcement, 2,666 drivers were found with conditions that required them to be immediately placed out of service. Hours of service violations accounted for 43.7% of these out-of-service conditions. Another 10.2% of drivers pulled from service were pulled due to false record of duty status.
Truck drivers are at risk for fatigue not just because they drive longer than is safe or allowed by law. Many truck drivers may also suffer from sleep apnea, a condition which interrupts a person’s sleeping during the night and prevents them from getting a good night’s rest. Sleep apnea sufferers are typically much more fatigued during the day and even experience bursts of “microsleep” for a few seconds at a time, which for a semi- truck driver is enough time to cause a dangerous or deadly accident. Truck drivers are not required to be evaluated for sleep apnea during their DOT physicals, although doctors may order tests based on risk factors such as obesity.
Call Attorney Keith Bregoff after a Serious Vero Beach Truck Accident
Driving down the highway for hours on end can cause driver fatigue in anyone and also cause them to shut down their awareness of their surroundings. This is a dangerous behavior for anyone, but for drivers of tractor-trailers, the results can be deadly for many innocent drivers on the road. Truckers have a duty to stay alert and focused behind the wheel, and trucking companies should encourage safe driving behaviors rather than put their drivers and the public at risk. The Law Offices of Keith Bregoff PA holds drivers and carriers accountable for their negligence. If you have been injured in a truck accident in Stuart, Fort Pierce or Port St. Lucie, call Keith Bregoff at 772-492-8967 for a free case evaluation from an experienced and dedicated Vero Beach truck accident attorney.