Truck Accident

The Impact of Truck Driver Fatigue on Accident Rates

Truck driver fatigue is a national issue of pressing importance. Truck drivers are among the most important professionals in our economy, ensuring that goods and raw materials reach even the most remote parts of the country. However, they are often placed under enormous pressure to complete near-impossible hauls, work without sleep, and otherwise put their health at risk. Find out how truck driver fatigue affects accident rates and what your options are after a crash.

Hurt in a truck accident? You deserve an experienced, aggressive advocate. Call Peake & Fowler at 803-998-2412 to set up a time to talk about your crash with one of our attorneys.

What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?

A number of issues contribute to the growing problem of truck driver fatigue. The first is long hours. This is essentially unavoidable in the trucking industry, as truck drivers generally drive as long as they legally can before they stop to rest. This means that drivers often work full shifts regardless of how much sleep they got the night before. 

A driver’s irregular work schedule can also contribute to their fatigue—the human body works best when it has a predictable schedule. When drivers sometimes drive at night, drive during the day other times, and occasionally take an early morning shift, it is incredibly difficult for the body to get enough sleep. 

Drivers are under a lot of pressure from their employers. Trucking companies take on as many jobs as they can and deal with the need for drivers afterward. When they don’t have enough drivers to meet demand—an increasingly common issue in this industry—they just push their current drivers harder. Drivers, out of a sense of loyalty or fear for their job security, may take hauls even when they know they can’t drive safely.

Consequences of Fatigue-Related Collisions

What happens when truck drivers hit the road fatigued? The likelihood of a crash increases the longer a driver goes without sleep. A lack of sleep leaves you at greater risk of making significant errors when driving or missing obstacles entirely. Fatigue also drags your reaction time, making you physically less capable of responding to obstacles on the road.

The size and weight of commercial trucks make them far more dangerous than smaller vehicles. When a driver falls asleep behind the wheel or starts to drift off, they can cause severe accidents. Drivers have driven through medians, off of bridges, or into oncoming traffic. Fatal and severe injuries are very real possibilities.

In addition to the risk of injury, fatigued drivers can also cause massive property damage. This includes damage to vehicles, the road, and infrastructure.

Regulations Established to Prevent Fatigue

The FMCSA has taken aggressive steps to decrease the risk of fatigued driving, especially in light of reports showing how hard companies push their drivers. Hours-of-service regulations strive to keep drivers safe. These regulations forbid drivers from driving more than 11 hours in a shift. 

After beginning a drive, a driver can be on the road no longer than 14 hours after they originally set off. This is true even if they took multiple breaks during the drive. Drivers can work no more than 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days.

The FMCSA also moved to require electronic logging devices in the vast majority of commercial trucks in 2020. These ELDs make it much easier to find out if a driver is in violation of hours-of-service regulations, and they can also highlight any signs of fatigued driving. Some ELDs track drifting in and out of lanes, erratic changes in speed, and sudden braking.

Compensation After a Crash

When a fatigued truck driver causes a collision, their employer is often held liable. It doesn’t matter if the driver drove fatigued because they wanted to finish a haul or if they were ordered to by their employer—employers are generally held liable for the actions of their working employees. Injured victims may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and other expenses.

Hurt by a Fatigued Driver? Call Peake & Fowler Today

If you were involved in an accident caused by a fatigued driver, the team at Peake & Fowler is ready to talk to you about your legal options. When you call us at 803-998-2412 or contact us online, we’ll help you schedule a free consultation.