Fatigued Drivers and Fatal Truck Crashes

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Driver fatigue is problem in this country.  It is a major factor in fatal truck accidents in Missouri and elsewhere.  So much so that the federal government has made reducing fatigue-related crashes a point of emphasis over the next two years.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigates major accidents involving airplanes, trains, and cars and commercial trucks.  The NTSB then develops recommendations for making air, rail and highway travel transportation safer in the United States.

21 Percent of Fatal Crashes Caused by Fatigued Drivers

The agency recently released its “Most Wanted List” for 2019-2020; a collection of issues the NTSB views as serious transportation threats to the public.  One item on the list is to “Reduce Fatigue-Related Accidents,” noting that drowsy drivers have been estimated to be responsible for 21 percent of fatal crashes in the country. 

Commercial truck drivers face a demanding work schedule.  They can be on the road for days, transporting goods from one coast to the other.  Over-the-road truckers often are paid by the mile.  So it’s in their best economic interest to make deliveries as quickly as possible.  Trucking companies also can benefit from truckers adhering to or beating delivery timeframes.

When a drowsy truck driver responsible for a loaded rig weighing as much as 80,000 pounds crashes, the damage can be catastrophic.

That’s why the federal government instituted Hours of Service Rules that specify how much time a trucker can drive in a day and a week, and dictate periods of mandated rest.  Commercial truck drivers also now must record these hours of work and rest in electronic devices.  Electronic logging devices replace the previous paper log books in which truck drivers wrote down this information.  This paper log book system was easy to manipulate.  If a trucker exceeded the maximum daily or weekly driving hours, a second book could be used to record bogus hours to show and deceive the police.

Tired Truckers Who Have Sleep Apnea

But a trucker may also get fatigued from a lack of sleep triggered by a medical condition called sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea causes a person to stop breathing for a brief moment, but up to hundreds of times per night.  These interruptions often have the person feeling overtired the next day.

Those who are most at risk for sleep apnea are male, overweight, and older than 40 – the makeup of many commercial truckers on the road today. Yet trucking companies are not required to test their drivers for sleep apnea.

Truck drivers are required to undergo medical testing as part of the commercial drivers’ license application process.  These federally certified medical examiners may require sleep apnea testing depending on the findings.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation established a registry of certified medical examiners.  It just recently announced that it is auditing this registry following a spate of criminal charges and fraud allegations against some of these medical examiners.  Reportedly, as many as 6,600 truckers were required to renew their medical certifications based on one examiner’s fraudulent actions.

The NTSB notes that both truck drivers and trucking companies have a responsibility to combat fatigued driving and provided specific steps for doing so.  To negligently ignore the risks and consequences of tired truck drivers puts innocent victims in grave peril.

If you were seriously hurt or had a family member killed in an accident involving a commercial truck, contact a truck accident attorney to protect your legal rights to just compensation from all those responsible.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles February 28, 2019

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