Commercial truck drivers have a responsibility to protect others who share the road by preventing truck accidents as much as possible. They must operate their large trucks with care and in accordance with all federal trucking laws. This includes hours-of-service regulations, which are in place to prevent truck driver fatigue.
Fatigued Truck Drivers Can Cause Deadly Accidents
Operating an 18-wheeler takes a driver’s full faculties. A truck driver must be physically and mentally equipped to safely and properly drive the tractor-trailer. This requires a certain amount of stamina and attention. Fatigue can interfere with a truck driver’s ability to operate a truck. Driver fatigue has even been compared to drunk driving in some studies. Truck driver drowsiness can result in the following risks:
- Failure to pay attention to the road
- Delayed reaction and response times
- Poor decision-making
- Reckless driving behaviors
- Decrease in truck driver performance
- Erratic braking or accelerating
- Drifting in and out of lanes
- Loss of vehicle control
- Jackknife accidents and truck rollovers
- Rear-end collisions
If a truck driver is feeling drowsy, he or she has a duty to pull over and rest. There is no substitute for sleep; caffeine, sugar or energy drinks are not safe options for drowsy truck drivers. If a truck driver ignores the signs of fatigue, our Pittsburgh personal injury lawyers know they are at an increased risk of causing a devastating commercial truck accident in Pittsburgh.
What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?
Truck driver drowsiness is a leading cause of truck accidents in Pennsylvania and throughout the country. Truck drivers are more likely to drive drowsy than other drivers due to long work hours, inadequate sleep and continuous driving. Commercial truck drivers may struggle with fatigue while on the job for many reasons, including:
- Physical and mental exertion from operating a big rig
- Strenuous activities, such as loading and unloading a truck
- Pressure from companies to exceed allowed driving times
- Long hours alone on the road
- Night shifts and reversed sleep schedules
- Sleeping in odd places, such as the side of the road
- Being unable to sleep well in a truck’s sleeper berth
- Drug or alcohol use (including prescription medications) that cause drowsiness
- Lifestyle factors, such as obesity
- Sleep apnea and other medical conditions that interrupt sleep
Sleep apnea is a significant issue among commercial truck drivers. It is a breathing-related sleep disorder that is more common among people who are overweight, 40 and older, and who smoke. It can cause chronic fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness from interrupted sleep. Sleep apnea can also affect a driver’s ability to concentrate during the day.
What Are the Federal Hours-of-Service Regulations?
Truck driver fatigue is such a significant problem that federal regulations have been passed to try to prevent it. Truck drivers must abide by federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. HOS rules prohibit truck drivers from driving more than 14 consecutive hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
Drivers must take 30-minute breaks after driving for 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. They may not drive more than 60/70 hours in 7/8 consecutive days. Finally, drivers have a maximum 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
Unfortunately, our Pittsburgh truck accident attorneys have seen many cases in which truck drivers violate hours-of-service restrictions due to pressure from their bosses to shorten transit times or incentives to push past their driving time limits, such as bonuses for faster deliveries. This increases the odds of truck accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial truck accident involving a drowsy truck driver in Pennsylvania, contact an attorney at Dallas W. Hartman, P.C. for a free case evaluation.