Fatigued Driving Truck Accidents in NC
Because truck drivers travel long distances, there are federal regulations that direct how much time truckers can stay behind the wheel without a break. Despite these laws, tired truck drivers are a problem on the roads across the country, including here in Western North Carolina. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) says that over the last decade truck drivers have spent more hours behind the wheel and have reported more instances of falling asleep at the wheel.
This is despite research indicating that truckers’ long work hours cause sleep deprivation, disruption of normal sleep cycles and fatigue. There is also evidence that being behind the wheel more than eight hours straight makes a truck driver twice as likely to crash.
Driving while fatigued, sleepy or drowsy may be considered negligence on the part of any driver, especially a truck driver piloting a vehicle that can weigh 10,000 to 80,000 pounds. If a fatigued truck driver is on the road because of pressure from an employer, the trucking company may also be held liable for damage and injuries in a wreck.
The Elmore and Smith Law Firm, PC based in Asheville, investigates truck accidents involving tired drivers in Western North Carolina and pursues compensation for victims. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a trucking accident, driver fatigue may be the cause of the truck accident and you may be eligible for compensation.
Contact us by phone or online to set up a free meeting to discuss the circumstances of your truck accident and your potential legal claim.
Fatigued Truck Drivers: A Known Problem
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the U.S. trucking industry, including how much time commercial truck drivers may spend behind the wheel before they are required to rest. After years of debate, court action and changes to proposals, the FMSCA issued a final rule for hours of service (HOS) that went into effect on July 1, 2013.
The FMCSA’s new hours-of-service rule:
- Retains the 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour workday.
- Limits the maximum average workweek for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the previous maximum of 82 hours.
- Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including from 1 to 5 a.m. on at least two nights.
- Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
The FMCSA requires truck drivers to record their hours in written logbooks that are subject to review by inspectors. But the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) cites multiple studies of long-distance truck drivers who say work rules are commonly violated. About a third of truckers interviewed by the IIHS in three separate surveys admitted to often or sometimes omitting hours from their logbooks. Some truck drivers refer to logbooks as “comic books” because they are so easily falsified, the IIHS says.
An influential FMCSA report known as “The Large Truck Crash Causation Study” found that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash.
The FMCSA says a recent study of the sleeping and driving habits of commercial drivers concluded that an unhealthy lifestyle, long working hours and sleeping problems were the main causes of drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
The federal regulatory body suggests that drivers avoid medications that may make them drowsy, such as tranquilizers, sleeping pills, allergy medicines and cold medicines. The agency also advises drivers that behaviors like smoking, turning up the radio, drinking coffee, opening the window and other “alertness tricks” are not real cures for drowsiness and may instead give the driver a false sense of security.
It is evident from research, regulatory action and the FMCSA’s advice to drivers that fatigued driving is recognized as a real threat to safety, yet it still happens.
There are many reasons a truck driver may stay on the road despite being sleepy or fatigued. They mostly involve money – trying to meet a deadline or making up for lost time due to traffic or weather delays – or the driver’s comfort, such as a trucker who keeps rolling to get home sooner or to get through a metropolitan area before rush hour.
Some trucking companies pressure drivers to drive too long or offer bonuses for making unreasonable deadlines.
These are not valid excuses for fatigued driving.
A proper investigation after a truck accident, including review of the driver’s logs, electronic “black box” recorders on the truck, cellphone records, debit or credit card records and other available information may show where a trucker traveled prior to the accident and for how long. Crash data, such as a lack of braking before impact,may indicate a driver was asleep at the wheel.
If a truck driver was on the road too long and his or her fatigue was a factor in a crash, the people injured because of the driver’s fatigue may have a good case for seeking compensation.
Contact A Western NC Truck Accident Attorney
The Elmore and Smith Law Firm, PC can advise you of your legal rights and options for a legal claim against the at-fault truck driver and trucking company involved in your truck accident. Call us now or fill out our online form for a free, no-obligation initial consultation about your case.