Big rig drivers are highly skilled at their jobs. They put in hundreds if not thousands of hours in training and actually operating large tractor trailers. They have to maneuver commercial trucks that can weigh up to about 80,000 pounds. These trucks are not only difficult to control when moving but also difficult to bring to a stop when traveling at full speed. The slightest mistake while driving these trucks can result in a catastrophe.
When a truck driver is fatigued, his ability to react is significantly reduced. A tired driver is not able to make split-second lifesaving decisions while operating these heavy vehicles. They are also less likely to think clearly when under pressure.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, more than 40% of large truck accidents are caused by fatigued truck drivers. Accidents involving 18-wheelers are often fatal for those in passenger vehicles that are significantly smaller and weigh less than commercial trucks.
Driver fatigue can be the result of various factors including:
- Pressure by the trucking company or customers to deliver more loads in a set time.
- Driving continuously for too many hours
- Lack of sleep
The Hours of Service Rules
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)47 has set laws and regulations to prevent accidents resulting from driver fatigue. These rules require truck drivers to rest and take regular breaks from driving. Truck drivers are not allowed to drive for more than 11 hours continuously. Drivers are also required to rest for at least 10 hours before embarking on long trips.
The laws also do not allow drivers to get behind the wheel 14 hours after the start of their shift. They are also not allowed to drive for more than a cumulative 60 hours in a week. And, they are not allowed to drive for more than 70 hours in a span of eight days.
Despite these regulations, truck drivers still break the rules and many drive while they are fatigued. This is why the FMCSA also requires drivers and trucking companies to keep logs of trips. These log books are a crucial piece of evidence that can be used in a lawsuit against a driver or company whose negligence resulted in an accident.
Holding Someone Liable
Both the company and the truck driver can be held liable for the damages in an accident in which fatigue was a causing factor. The driver who falls asleep behind the wheel to maximize profits as well as the company that forced an unrealistic schedule on the driver will be ordered to pay compensation for injuries resulting from the accident.
If you have been seriously injured or a loved one has died as a result of a collision involving an 18-wheeler, please contact an experienced attorney. In New York and Florida, truck accident attorney Mark Panzavecchia will evaluation your claim for free and will fight to get you the money you deserve for your injuries.