Why That Truck Accident May Not Have Been the Truck Driver’s Fault

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Truck driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents. As many as 13 percent of commercial truck drivers are fatigued at the time of a crash, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study. The FMCSA notes that truck driver fatigue can result from inadequate sleep, lengthy hours of work, physical or mental exertion that harms performance, or strenuous activities.

Driving with too little sleep is a significant concern among all drivers in the U.S. Drowsy driving caused 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 fatalities during 2013, the last year for which statistics are available, according to the CDC. However, the CDC believes these numbers are significantly underestimated, and as many as 6,000 deaths could be caused by drowsy driving every year.

Commercial truck drivers are far more likely to drive drowsy or fatigued than other drivers, according to the CDC. Driver fatigue worsens many functions that drivers need to perform well, including vision, reaction time, coordination, and judgment. A driver can veer into oncoming highway traffic if he falls asleep, causing a devastating head-on collision. Or he may forget to check his blind spot before changing lanes. Blind spots are extensive on trucks, and a side-swipe collision may result.

Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue

Commercial truck drivers are required by federal law to abide by limits on their hours of service without rest breaks. They are mandated to break after 11 straight hours of driving when that period occurs after taking 10 straight hours off. They are mandated to stop driving once they’re driven for 14 hours. Unfortunately, there is no one that enforces, or can enforce, whether they actually sleep during those hours.

Many truck drivers may feel pressured to drive whether they are fatigued or not, and to drive over the federal limits. There are many reasons they may feel this pressure, or may actually be pressured by trucking companies or subcontractors. Trucking companies make their money by delivering cargo, often across great distances. The truckers may feel that they must make the deliveries by pre-set deadlines. Some companies set the deadlines without taking traffic patterns and potential accidents or construction delays into account.

Unfortunately, some trucking companies set unreasonable deadlines, which makes the drivers more prone to behavior that can result in accidents—either speeding, working longer hours without breaks, using illegal drugs, or even violating the federal standards.

In order to find out the cause of a trucking accident you or a loved one might have been involved in, you need a skilled attorney to investigate the circumstances behind the accident. An attorney can find out if the trucking company violated the law by forcing their drivers to work an illegal amount of hours.

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Gregory H. Herrman