Truck Driver Fatigue

After having your driver’s license a few years, the act of getting in the car and going becomes routine. You don’t even think when you reposition your seat and mirrors to the optimal position. You don’t have to consciously tell your hand to flip on your turn signal or your foot to push the brake.

Driving becomes so natural to us that we can forget how dangerous it is. But whether you’re running errands in town at 35 mph or headed on vacation via the highway at 70 mph, the speed and weight of cars and trucks make them hazardous when traffic laws aren’t obeyed. Thousands of individuals are hurt or killed in car accidents every year, and this number increases when trucking accidents are added.

If you were in an accident with a truck recently, you’re now dealing with a significant reminder of the dangers of driving. Sometimes it isn’t a broken law that causes an accident, but the driver being overly tired. Fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck-related accidents in the U.S., followed by speeding, distraction, moving violations, and bad weather.

If you believe you were hurt in an accident because a trucker was too tired to be driving, it may be best to speak with an Illinois truck accident lawyer to learn your rights.

Truck Driver Sleep Heavily Regulated

The federal government is aware of the reality of truck drivers becoming too tired to properly operate their vehicles. In conjunction with speeding and other factors, a drowsy trucker is a significant hazard. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the number of hours truckers are allowed to operate their vehicles each week to decrease the risk of accidents and injuries.

The latest hours of service rules are complicated but in general, they state truckers for property carrying vehicles can drive up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off. What does it mean to have 10 consecutive hours off? In general, certain combinations of off-duty time and hours in a sleeper berth are allowed. The drivers can only drive within a 14 consecutive hour period following coming on duty after 10 hours off. Therefore, the maximum 11 hours of driving time allowed must take place within 14 hours after their break. Drivers must also take a rest of 30 minutes within an 8 hour period of driving.

Depending on whether the driver works 7 or 8 consecutive days, he or she is allowed to work up to 60 or 70 hours a week, respectively.

The rules regarding operation of service for commercial passenger vehicles are slightly different. These truckers can drive up to 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty, but the maximum 10 hours much be achieved within a 15 hour period.

Controversy Regarding Hours of Service Laws

In an ideal world, a trucker would pull over and sleep when necessary, but there’s a great deal of pressure to make deliveries as quickly as possible. The trucking industry has continuously pushed back against the government when hours of service restrictions have been tightened. In December 2014, a previously enacted law requiring a 34 hour restart period between working weeks was repealed until further study on the issue could be performed.

The Difficulties in Proving Driver Fatigue

There’s no test for fatigue that can be entered as evidence in court. While a truck driver can be tested for drugs and alcohol, there’s no way to quantify how tired he or she was at the time of your accident. This is one of the reasons the federal regulations are so crucial. Due to the rules regarding hours of operation versus rest, truck drivers must keep duty logs. Also, high-tech cabs can now offer data as to when the truck was moving. Automatic on-board recording devices may be installed and used instead of paper-and-pen logs. The driver might also use an electronic logging device.

To prove the driver’s fatigue was at fault for your injuries, it can help you if you can demonstrate the driver was operating beyond the allowed hours of service. Non-compliance with the law may boost your claim of driver negligence. Knowing this, an experienced attorney will seek to gain the driver’s logs and any other evidence that may demonstrate how long the trucker had been driving and how much rest he or she had gotten that day or week.

Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. has years of experience in litigating trucking accidents where driver fatigue is a significant factor. Contact them at (312) 236-2900 to learn about your rights and how they can help.