Tired Truck Drivers Who Cause Catastrophic Accidents

Twenty miles may be a key measurement for commercial truck crashes caused by tired truckers.

The federal government’s 2006 “Large Truck Causation Study,” an exhaustive look as to why big rig accidents occur in the United States, identifies truck driver fatigue as a major cause of commercial truck wrecks. The findings of a newer study (“Association Between Commercial Vehicle Driver At-Fault Crashes Involving Sleepiness/Fatigue and Proximity to Rest Areas and Truck Stops”; Accident Analysis & Prevention, Nov. 2017) bolster this conclusion.

University of Kentucky researchers reviewed the state’s commercial truck accidents between 2005 and 2014. They found nearly 7,600 tractor-trailer crashes where the truck driver was at fault. Of those, they determined about 300 involved a sleep-deprived trucker.

By analyzing the commercial truck accidents in more detail, the researchers discovered a factor directly related to inattentive, tired truck drivers: the distance between highway rest stops.  The farther the distance between areas where truckers can pull over and rest the greater the chances for big rig crashes caused by tired truck drivers.

Truckers’ Need for Rest

The researchers determined that the odds for truck accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers were about two-and-a-half times more likely when the distance between rest stops or weigh stations was between 20 and 40 miles. When highway rest stops were more than 40 miles apart, crashes caused by tired truckers were seven times more likely.

The study also concluded that commercial truck crashes caused by fatigued truck drivers were more likely to happen on parkways versus interstates. Parkways were found to have less rest stops than interstate highways.

The researchers offer two recommendations to curb tired truckers beyond the obvious need for more rest stops. They suggest a more widespread use of in-cabin systems that warn truckers of their fatigue. They also recommend an examination of truck companies’ policies on combatting driver fatigue, such as driving schedules that don’t adequately allow for rest.

That last recommendation is very relevant, as a 2017 poll conducted by Overdrive, a trucking trade magazine, revealed that nearly 80 percent of truck drivers felt pressured by their bosses to drive tired. About half of the truckers polled said they drive tired just about every day.

Truck Drivers Who Don’t Follow Hours of Service Rules

To remedy this, the federal government instituted new hours of service rules that placed a cap on how many hours a day and per week over-the-road truckers could drive without rest.  In addition, these same truck drivers now must enter their driving hours electronically. Prior to this Electronic Logging Device mandate, truck drivers wrote down their driving hours in paper log books, which could be easily manipulated to deceive law enforcement.

The ELD mandate went into effect in December 2017, but a significant number of trucks and trucking companies are ignoring it.  According to a July 2018 poll by trucking vendor MiX Telematics, about 30 percent of trucking fleets have yet to install the ELDs in their trucks.

The need for adequate rest to prevent trucking accidents is not in question. So truckers and their employers must make responsible decisions and follow laws that reduce tired driving.  When they don’t and their negligence critically injures or kills innocent victims, they should be held accountable.

If you had a loved one die or you were severely hurt in a crash caused by a commercial truck, contact a truck accident attorney, who can pursue your legal rights to just compensation.

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

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles July 31, 2018