Truck Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue is all too often a major problem in the trucking industry. Our 18-wheeler accident attorneys at Cross & Smith handle cases in Tuscaloosa and throughout Alabama and have the knowledge and experience necessary to find out whether driver fatigue was a factor in your large truck wreck or 18-wheeler wreck.

Tragically, some trucking companies indirectly encourage driver fatigue by paying drivers based on the number of miles driven without any limitation for safety concerns of tired and road weary drivers. There have been studies conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board that have found over fifty percent of trucking or 18-wheeler wrecks were determined to be fatigue related. In addition to driving large trucks for long distances over extended periods of time, ingestion of sleep deprivation medications only worsens the ultimate fatigue and judgment of drivers handling large trucks.

By continuing this pattern over and over, truck drivers develop what has been shown to be habitual sleep deprivation that results in sleep debt. Lost sleep adds up over time and results in a debt. This sleep debt can become deadly, particularly when driving large trucks or 18-wheelers with a substantial sleep debt. Without proper sleep and rest, the sleep debt does not go away. Moreover, as the sleep debt becomes larger, the likelihood of falling asleep during the daytime becomes increasingly stronger until it becomes impossible for individuals to stay awake no matter what they do. Driving large trucks or 18-wheelers over long stretches of interstate highways only compounds the problem and makes sleep deprivation all the more deadly for other motorists as well as the truck driver. Several years ago, a study by the National Commission of Sleep Disorders Research included interviews of over six hundred (600) truck drivers and overnight tests of a subgroup of them. It found that most of the drivers suffered from large sleep debts both because of inadequate sleep and because many were shown to have obstructive sleep apnea. For the most part, however, the truck drivers denied suffering from any serious problem with fatigue or drowsiness.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations contain detailed and specific rules and regulations regarding the number of hours that truck drivers should be permitted to drive and work without rest. 49 C.F.R. 392 contains mandatory rules regarding fatigue and impairment. A driver has a duty to cease driving anytime when his “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.” 49 C.F.R. 395 contains rules and regulations regarding hours of service of drivers. Truck drivers may not drive more than eleven (11) hours following ten (10) consecutive hours off duty or beyond the fourteenth (14th) hour after coming on duty, following ten (10) consecutive hours off duty or after being on duty more than sixty/seventy (60/70) hours in any seven/eight (7/8) consecutive days.

In addition to restrictions imposed on drivers for limited driving time, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations mandate that commercial carriers require its truck drivers to make and retain a record of duty status (log) for each 24 hour period. The report must include information regarding off duty time, sleeper berth time, driving time (time spent at the driving controls), and on duty time, but not driving. A commercial carrier must retain its driver’s records and log books, including all supporting documentation, for at least six (6) months. The term “supporting documents” is defined by the regulations as “the records of the motor vehicle carrier which remain maintained in the ordinary course of business and used by the motor carrier to verify the information recorded on the driver’s record of duty status.”

In handling truck and 18-wheeler accidents, it is imperative to verify all of the information contained in the driver’s records or log books to ensure that it is accurate. One of the most effective means of doing so is to obtain copies of the driver’s records and log books and all supporting documents either from the driver, commercial carrier or third-party customers or vendors. Supporting documents include many sources of information such as bills of lading, telephone records, credit card statements or receipts, weight/scale tickets, fuel receipts, fuel billing statements, on-board computer reports, dispatch reports, toll receipts, delivery receipts and freight bills, trip permits, port of entry receipts, etc.

We have found that driver fatigue often plays a role in the cause of truck and 18-wheeler accidents. If you, or someone close to you, have been involved in a truck or 18-wheeler wreck, we encourage you to contact skilled Alabama truck accident lawyers. At Cross & Smith, we have handled numerous truck accident cases in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. If you would like to consult with us, please contact us online or call our office at (877) 791-0618 for a free confidential consultation.

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