Truck Driver Fatigue and Collisions

Most motorists do not possess a Commercial Drivers License (CDL). Generally speaking, a CDL allows a driver to operate a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds for commercial use. Additionally, a CDL is required to operate certain commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), which are vehicles that are used for business in interstate commerce weighing more than 10,000 pounds. In other words, a CDL allows one to operate a bus, tow truck and tractor trailers – sometimes over a long period of time. However, most of us who do not possess a CDL, sure know what it is like to drive extensive trips to the beach or mountains surrounding or outside the State of Georgia. As such, we are all familiar with driver fatigue.

Fatigue is a condition that is most often the reaction to lack of sleep, boredom, stress or physical or mental exertion. While fatigue can manifest itself in many forms and in different fields of work, it is extremely dangerous in the field of transportation inasmuch as driver fatigue can lead to catastrophic collisions, accidents and death. Furthermore, when the fatigue is related to the truck driver of a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, the consequences can be disastrous.

In terms of research, studies have confirmed that there is a strong correlation between the number of hours driven and the propensity of fatigue-related truck crashes and accidents. I always review the facts of each and every truck accident case to see if driver fatigue is a among the causes of the wreck. From this review, I have seen fatigue in truck drivers from operating semi-trucks that are due to sleep deprivation and/or operating a truck outside the hours of service guidelines.

The applicable hours of service guidelines are found in Federal Motor Carrier Regulation 395.3(a)(2), which mandate that truck drivers are only on-duty for 14 consecutive hours if they have previously been off-duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. However, some employers provide an unintended incentive for drivers to develop fatigue and fail to follow the guidelines by paying the truck driver by the mile or requiring that a delivery be made on time. Additionally, due to inadequate training by their employers, truck drivers may fail to calculate their specific on-duty hours and fail to realize that the calculation of duty time includes any period of time that the truck driver took off-duty time for a break during the 14-hour period. Consequently, hours of service guidelines are breached and fatigue may set in due to drivers trying to make up for lost time.

Of the 14 hours of on-duty time, a truck driver may only drive the truck for a total of 11 out of those 14 hours. In theory, once the truck driver drives a maximum of 11 hours, the truck driver must cease driving and take off-duty for 10 consecutive hours before the truck driver is able to drive again under federal regulations. In practice, some truck drivers intentionally fail to take the required rest by either claiming that a suitable rest area was not in the vicinity or due to a desire to make more money by driving more miles and meeting the delivery deadline.

Besides the consecutive hours of truck operation regulations, there are further restraints on how many hours a truck driver may operate their vehicle during a work week via the “60/70 Rule”. According to this regulation, a trucking company can place its driver on either a seven or eight day driving period. Consequently, a truck driver on a seven day week can operate a truck for a maximum of 60 hours and a truck driver on an eight day week can operate a truck for a maximum of 70 hours. After the truck driver has met the 60/70 rule, the truck driver cannot restart driving until after the truck driver has taken a 34 hour period off-duty.

Through the hours of service and 60/70 rule, the federal authorities have placed protocols to minimize and reduce truck driver fatigue and in kind reduced fatigue related crashes and accidents. In a trucker fatigue crash, an experienced truck accident attorney will seek to send a preservation of evidence letter to the driver, trucking company, leasing company of the truck and other relevant entity to safeguard log books, documents and any other evidence which will tend to prove that the truck driver did not follow the regulations outlined above.

If you are injured in a tractor trailer collision or truck accident in Georgia, Mr. Ford can help you receive the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries, lost earnings or wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford is currently accepting trucking accident cases throughout Georgia. Please contact us today for a free consultation.