Common Cause of Truck Crashes: Tired Truckers

There are many factors that cause fatal trucking accidents, including speeding, talking on a cell phone, and shifting loads.  But fatigued truckers also represent a common yet avoidable cause of catastrophic truck crashes.

The most comprehensive study on truck crashes in this country, published 10 years ago, listed truck driver fatigue as a serious problem.  And according to the 2016 Governors Highway Safety Association’s report on drowsy driving, 13 percent of all fatal trucking accidents in 2013 were caused by a tired trucker.

Because of job deadlines and employer pressures, a trucker’s sleep can often take a backseat to the bottom line., That’s why federal rules limit how much time big rig drivers can work, as well as mandate rest periods.

Tired Truck Drivers Mimic Drunk Driving Behavior

These limits are vital in protecting the public.  The GHSA says that driving 21 hours without sleep is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content level of .08 percent – the legal threshold for drunk driving in every state.  So fatigued truckers who ignore federal Hours of Service rules and spend too much time behind the wheel can have the slow reaction times, impaired judgment, and inattentiveness of drunk drivers.  That federal truck crash causation study cites errors in truck driver decision-making and recognition as top reasons for truck crashes.

Time demands alone don’t create fatigued truck drivers.  Truck drivers are more prone to sleep apnea than the general population.  Sleep apnea disrupts nighttime sleep, often leaving those with the condition tired the next day.  One Harvard study showed that truck drivers who have sleep apnea are five times more likely to crash than truckers without the health issue.

Drowsy Driving Accidents Likely to be Catastrophic

The GHSA lists common characteristics of drowsy driving accidents, including:

·         They are likely to be catastrophic – resulting in serious injury or death

·         They typically occur on highways

·         They usually involve a driver traveling alone

Given the weight of tractor-trailers, the roads they most likely travel, and the fact that most truckers drive by themselves, it’s not surprising that so many fatigued truck drivers are responsible for fatal crashes.

Although the federal Hours of Service rules are designed to prevent fatal truck accidents, the trucking industry has fought them, saying they hurt profits.  The truck lobbying worked and Congress suspended a portion of the rules in 2014.  The federal government recently announced that the suspensions will remain in effect, despite a recent study that showed truckers were sleeping more now with the rules.

Truck drivers who don’t follow the rules or knowingly make irresponsible decisions, and truck companies that look the other way, act recklessly.  This is especially true for truckers who are dangerously fatigued but drive anyway.

If you had family member killed or you suffered serious injuries in an accident caused by a commercial truck, speak with a truck accident attorney to review your legal options.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles May 25, 2017