Pressure on semi truck drivers to stay on the road and deliver goods is causing an epidemic of semi truck accidents. The National Transportation Safety Board reports fatigue played a role in more than 20 percent of major accidents, many of which involved multiple vehicles or fatalities. Nationally there has been a push to regulate driver fatigue and eliminate some of the factors that lead to overly tired drivers, but change is slow in coming.
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Causes Of Fatigue
Driver fatigue has roots in several behavior and environmental factors that a semi truck accident lawyer will examine.
The primary cause of fatigue is a lack of sleep. On average, a semi truck driver only receives 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, even though adults need 7-9 hours to be well rested.
Drivers face a lack of sleep because they feel pressure to stay on the road. Companies institute tight deadlines and only pay for the miles a driver covers, so it’s tempting to falsify log books and reduce sleep time for many drivers. Further complicating the problem are environmental factors, like heat and an uncomfortable sleeper cabin, which reduce the quality of the sleep drivers get.
Human beings are most productive during daylight, but daytime driving is not always possible for truck drivers. Federal driving regulations established a 11 on/10 off rule that limits drivers to 11 hours of driving after 10 full hours off duty.
Instead of sleeping on a normal, predictable schedule, drivers find themselves sleeping at odd or different hours every day. The changes in sleep pattern make it difficult for drivers to fall asleep, so much of their downtime is spent awake.
Long-haul drivers face countless miles on roads with little change of scenery for hours. The problem gets worse when they drive at night. As they drive, their mind starts to wander, and soon they enter a dissociative trance, where they are mentally disengaged with the road.
Fatigue exacerbates highway hypnosis, by causing disengaged drivers to fall asleep at the wheel. As many as 1 in 4 drivers report nodding off while driving, and many of them blame the monotonous nature of long-haul driving.
Though drivers are most often held liable for accidents involving driver fatigue, trucking companies can also be brought into the lawsuit. Companies that are shown to ignore complaints of fatigue from drivers or scheduled a driver to be on the road in violation of drive time rules can be held at fault.
Fatigued drivers increased the total number of semi truck accidents, and contributed to the rise in cost for each accident.
The Cost Of Semi Truck Accidents
A semi truck accident lawyer pursues two types of damages in an accident.
Economic damages are those directly related to medical treatment and loss of wages as the result of someone else’s negligence. The sheer size and weight of semi trucks substantially increases the risk of serious injuries or death in cases a semi truck accident lawyer handles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found accidents involving semis carried an economic cost of more than $330,000, a number that ballooned to $1.2 million when a truck pulled multiple trailers. In the event of a fatality, the FMCSA reports damages of over seven million on average.
Pain and suffering, loss of use or enjoyment, and emotional distress are all considered non-economic damages a semi truck accident lawyer can seek. In 2015, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled non-economic damage caps unconstitutional, opening the door for ever larger payouts to victims of fatigued drivers.
Drive Time Regulations
The problem of driver fatigue is so great that the government is working overtime to solve the issue. Because of the inter-state nature of long-haul trucking, oversight of drive time regulations falls into the hands of the federal government. The rules include:
- 11 Hour Limit: Drivers may only drive for 11 hours in a row after an uninterrupted 10 hour break.
- 14 Hour Limit: Drivers are limited to 14 total hours of drive time and on-duty (ie. loading, inspection, and maintenance) time before a 10 hour break
- 60/70—7/8 Rule: Drivers are limited to 60/70 hours of duty time in a 7/8 day period. The clock continues until the driver takes a required 34 hour break.
- Rest Breaks: Drivers must be off-duty for no less than 30 minutes on a break
Drivers are required to keep a log book of all of their activities that can be used by a semi truck accident lawyer to show violations of drive time regulations.
Semi truck accidents continue to be a problem on Tennessee roads, causing serious property damage and injuries. By attacking the causes of driver fatigue, and using a semi truck accident lawyer to seek damages after an accident, the road can become a safer place.Categories