Commercial Vehicle Accidents Caused by Trucker Fatigue
As many as 15 million big rigs transport almost three-quarters of America’s freight on our roads. Trucking is a demanding and exhausting job. One of the main causes of serious wrecks on the highways of Virginia and elsewhere is trucker fatigue.
Commercial vehicle accidents caused by trucker fatigue are truly terrifying. Often a driver will lose control of an 18-wheeler weighing up to 80,000 pounds and it will slam into smaller vehicles on the highway with devastating consequences.
The victims of these crashes may be killed or suffer grave injuries. It’s vital to recover as much money as you can from the trucking companies or other parties. It’s important to hire experienced Virginia tractor-trailer injury lawyers to fight your claim.
How Often Is Trucker Fatigue a Cause of Commercial Vehicle Accidents?
The recent Large Truck Crash Causation Study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration examined more than 12,000 commercial truck accidents over almost three years. The FMCSA researchers considered the causes of 249 deaths and 1,654 injuries.
The FMCA found fatigue, the consumption of alcohol, and speeding are major factors in motor vehicle crashes overall. These three factors increase the risk that a crash will occur.
Truckers were responsible for most of the crashes. About 12 percent were linked to so-called “non-performance.” Before these wrecks occurred, a driver either fell asleep, had a heart attack or seizure, or was physically impaired for another reason.
The National Transportation Safety Board estimates as many as 30-40 percent of trucking crashes are caused by driver fatigue.
What are The Causes of Trucker Fatigue in Virginia Commercial Vehicle Accidents?
Truckers’ hours are governed by the FMSCA’s Hours of Service regulations. Although these rules are meant to safeguard the drivers and other motorists, they allow a trucker to drive for hours at a time. Trucking companies often seek to flout these rules and put pressure on their drivers to make impossible deadlines.
Many trucking companies put their drivers under pressure to meet unrealistic schedules. The situation is exacerbated by a shortage of experienced truckers. Trucking companies implement systems of compensation that encourage faster travel and more hours of consecutive operation. These policies may encourage regulation violations and cause driver fatigue.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which airways are blocked or obstructed, preventing the sufferer getting a good night’s sleep. Drivers with untreated sleep apnea are linked to many crashes on the roads and railroads.
Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. It often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed. Under federal regulations, a driver with a medical history or clinical diagnosis of any condition likely to interfere with his or her ability to drive safely “cannot be medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.” However, once successfully treated, a driver can drive commercial vehicles. The Trump administration shelved proposals to screen truckers for sleep apnea following a series of fatal trucking wrecks.
Diabetes can cause tiredness or even a loss of consciousness behind the wheel. The FMCSA updated guidelines relating to which diabetic drivers are permitted to drive big rigs. Now commercial vehicle drivers who wish to work are required to submit the stipulated documents that prove they meet the guidelines.
These drivers must have conditions that were properly controlled for the past year with no symptoms or incidents of hypoglycemia for the past 12 months including severe dizziness or loss of consciousness. There is concern that the FMSCA is not addressing complications associated with diabetes.
The Federal Hours of Service Regulations for Truckers
The Federal Motor Vehicle Carrier Safety Administration has hours of service regulations that apply to truckers across the country. Although they are meant to combat driver fatigue, they are challenged regularly by the trucking companies and some rules have been suspended in recent years. Safety campaigners argue they do not go far enough in combating trucker fatigue.
The rules truckers must abide by are:
The 11-Hour Driving Limit
A commercial vehicle driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. The 11-hour clock only ticks while the truck is being driven.
The 14-Hour Driving Limit
A trucker may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the trucker’s 14-hour period. The clock does not stop even when a driver switches to off duty or sleeper berth mode. Once the 14-hour period is up, the driver must take a 10-hour break before driving any more.
Rules Relating to Trucker Rest Breaks
A commercial vehicle driver may get back on the road only if eight hours or less passed since the end of the driver’s last sleeper berth or off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. There are exceptions for short-haul drivers. This rule means before eight hours is up, a trucker must take at least a 30-minute rest break in sleeper or off duty status. After that 30-minute break, the driver has at maximum another eight hours to work before he or she is required to take another 30-minute break.
The 60/70 Hour Limit
Truckers may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver can re-start a 7/8 consecutive day period after 34 or more consecutive hours off duty are taken.
The Hours of Service rules consistently top the list of concerns cited by the trucking industry. However, many safety campaigners say these rules don’t go far enough.
Hire a Trucking Accident Lawyer After a Crash Caused by Trucker Fatigue
When a tired trucker causes a crash, the trucking company will do everything in its power to remove evidence of fatigue from the accident scene. Many parties can potentially be sued after a trucking crash. It’s vital to hire an experienced Virginia trucking accident lawyer who can obtain documentation and evidence that the driver was violating federal regulations or had an underlying health condition.
The Smith Law Center has litigated many big trucking cases and secured a $10.2 million verdict for a woman who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in a trucking accident, believed to be the largest trucking wreck verdict in Norfolk, Virginia. If you were hurt in a commercial vehicle accident caused by trucker fatigue, call us at (757).244.7000.