According to the National Transportation Safety Board, fatigue is a contributing factor in over 50% of large truck crashes. Though fatigue can strike a driver any time, the FMCSA reports that the risk of an accident due to fatigue doubles from the hours of 8 pm to 10 pm, and doubles again between 10 pm and 11pm.
In addition to these particular hours, truck drivers are susceptible to excessive drowsiness not only towards the end of a shift, but also at the beginning of a shift. This is called sleep inertia. Sleep inertia can also strike after naps and heavy meals, and results in short term memory impairment, and reduction in vigilance, cognitive function, reaction time, and ability to resist sleep.
Lack of sleep can accumulate, and after being awake for 18 hours, this lack of sleep is equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of .08, when drivers with commercial drivers licenses are considered intoxicated at .04. Just like alcohol, lack of sleep can affect mood, reaction time, and judgment.
Here are some tips for making sure fatigue doesn’t turn into an accident:
- Maintain a healthy diet. Healthy foods and portions help promote restful sleep at night, and an alert mind during the day.
- Napping properly is a good thing. Naps should never be less than 10 minutes long, and should ideally be about 45 minutes long. Also, allow yourself at least 15 minutes to bring yourself fully out of your nap before getting behind the wheel again.
- Be vigilant about your medications. Even over-the-counter medications can cause serious drowsiness. Be very careful of what medicines you take before getting behind the wheel.
- Be aware of the signs of drowsiness, such as frequent yawning, heavy eyelids, and blurred visions. Do not try to push through these feelings. There is no substitute for sleep. Caffeine and music may help temporarily, but do not address your body’s need for rest.
Hours of Service Regulations
Federal regulations are in place to reduce fatigue related accidents as much as possible. The FMCSA has instated hours of service regulations that all truck drivers must comply with. There are three maximum duty limits that must be followed at all times:
- A driver may be on-duty for 14 consecutive hours if he has been off-duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. Naps or breaks count towards the 14 consecutive hours.
- During the 14 consecutive hours that a driver can be on-duty, a driver is only allowed to be driving for 11 total hours.
- There are also limits on how many hours a driver can be on-duty in a 7 or 8-day period. A driver can not drive after being on duty for 60 hours in 7 consecutive days, and 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.
Trucking companies have the responsibility to make sure they do not encourage drivers to ignore these regulations in order to make quicker deliveries.
The Attorneys at Kirkendall Dwyer LLP Can Help
There are several ways a trucking accident attorney from Kirkendall Dwyer LLP can help you prove that fatigue was a contributing factor to your accident:
- Obtain driver’s log: This can reveal whether the truck driver was working beyond what is legally allowed.
- Company protocol: Does the trucker’s employer pay by the mile? By the number of completed trips? Depending on how it pays its drivers, the company may be encouraging working longer hours than is appropriate.
- Company policies: Does the trucking company enforce hours of service regulations strictly?
- Bills of Lading: These trip tickets are useful evidence to corroborate how long a driver was on the road and when deliveries were being made.
With an attorney on your side, you are much more likely to be able to recover compensation for your injuries, allowing you to recover from your trucking accident as fully as possible. Contact the truck accident attorneys at Kirkendall Dwyer LLP today.