There are many stories of over-tired truck drivers causing horrific accidents. Driving while tired is dangerous for any driver to do, but when the driver is in control of a vehicle that can weigh 80,000 pounds, the consequences of an accident are often deadly. Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving, and truck drivers regularly are expected to drive when they haven’t had adequate rest.
Why Are Truck Drivers Allowed to Drive When Tired?
It would be simple enough to say that truck drivers are overworked or break regulations, as both situations can be true. Unfortunately, the answer is a bit more complex. Because of the complicated regulations controlling time spent driving, it can be difficult to prove that a truck driver who causes an accident, or the company employing them, was actually breaking the law.
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces regulations that control the Hours-of-Service (HOS) that a truck driver may work for. These regulations dictate that a driver may drive 14 consecutive hours before they must stop for 10 consecutive hours. Unfortunately, this system doesn’t take into account the hours drivers spend waiting to pick up loads. Often a driver may wake up and drive a few hours to pick up a load. Once they arrive, drivers may find themselves waiting hours for a load to be ready, while they are considered to be “resting.” Truck drivers are human though, and cannot sleep on command. They may be wasting precious rest time sitting in their truck, wide awake and waiting for their load to be ready. By the time their load is ready, it is possible for them to have been awake for hours, and still be expected to drive most of the 14 hours permitted by regulation. A driver who spends ten “rest” hours awake while waiting for a load may be ready to go to sleep by the time they start their 14 hours of driving.
While we can recognize that a driver who has been awake 24 hours or more is not a safe driver, it is possible that they may still be following regulations, and not driving illegally. Because it isn’t illegal, drivers can be permitted to be on the road even when they are drowsy. Additionally, since truck drivers are paid by the mile, and not the hour, they only are paid while they are driving. Drivers may push themselves beyond what is safe to receive enough pay.
Companies also may offer incentives to drivers who are able to deliver cargo ahead of schedule, pushing drivers to drive beyond their limit. Companies may also threaten drivers with docked pay if they take a necessary break for the sake of safety. Companies can contribute to the number of tired truck drivers on the road, but they can also work to reduce that number by finding better practices and cracking down on long load times.
The Dangers of Drowsy Truck Drivers
Drowsy drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident, and when truck drivers are driving long hours without adequate rest, the likelihood of an accident only increases. Truck accidents are often catastrophic, and the resulting injuries can be life-altering or even fatal.
A study by Australian researchers found that remaining awake for 24 hours caused the same amount of impairment in drivers as a blood alcohol content of .10, which is beyond the legal limit of .08. Long, rural stretches of highways are the most likely places for drowsy drivers to have an accident, and many truck drivers spend hours driving these roads. Sleepiness slows your reaction time, decreases your awareness, and impairs your judgement, similar to the effects of alcohol. A lack of sleep can also affect your short-term memory, and cause aggressive behavior. Combining these changes with driving can lead to dangerous driving and accidents.
If You’ve Been in an Accident
If you’ve been in an accident with a commercial truck, you deserve compensation. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you recover damages for your injuries. It can be difficult to prove that the driver was operating unsafely, but your attorney will fight for your rights to ensure that your pain and suffering is justly rewarded.
Truck accidents can result in catastrophic injuries and can be deadly. If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, you need the dedicated, skilled representation of our team of Atlanta truck accident attorneys. Contact The Weinstein Firm, LLC today to learn how we can help with your case.