Truck driver fatigue has been the subject of numerous studies over the last three decades. The DOT has struggled to balance the need to move goods across the country in a timely manner and protecting the motoring public from unnecessary truck accidents.
The number of big rigs on the roadway has grown steadily with an estimated 15.5 million trucks operating in the United States, which includes over 2 million tractor – trailers.
Additionally, there are over 3.5 million professional truck drivers striving to meet deadlines and move goods in the US.
There is little doubt that the economy of United States is dependent upon the rapid transportation of freight. Estimates of revenue in the trucking industry exceed $150 billion per year.
With this background, it is easy to see that truck driver fatigue may take a backseat to the need for moving goods throughout the country.
Truck drivers and motor carriers have minimum safety standards regarding the number of hours a truck driver may drive each day or spend on the job. The Hours Of Service Regulations are contained in the FMCSR.
While the regulations are specific as to driving limits and also the number of consecutive hours off duty, the regulations are insufficient to adequately protect the public from fatigued drivers.
Ask any professional truck driver and they will tell you that driving a big rig is no piece of cake. Even drivers in good health can become fatigued and lose attention to the roadway over time. Regardless of the rest breaks and off-duty requirements, allowing a professional driver to be behind the wheel for 11 hours in one day is dangerous.
Nevertheless, that is the current standard for property carrying drivers after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
Many truck accidents occur simply because a driver was fatigued and failed to pay proper attention to the roadway in front of them.
The consequences of a fatigued driver on the roadway can be tragic. Aptitude driver has an impaired mental functioning and decisions are not made as quickly as sometimes necessary. Because semi trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds the importance of the driver’s mental state can’t be overstated.
New Regulations Needed
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations were recently updated, the regulations, in our opinion fail to address the realities of driver fatigue in the 21st century.
Recent studies by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics have shown that truck drivers are six times more likely to be in a fatal accident at work than in any other industry.
Texas has the Most Truck Drivers
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics also indicates that Texas employs the most truck drivers of any state in the union. Likewise, we have more than our share of truck wrecks in the state of Texas.
Fatigued Drivers = Accidents
It is difficult to quantify the number of truck accidents that happen because a driver was fatigued. Even spending 10 hours off the job does not mean that a truck driver is adequately rested and prepared for a long trip.
The mile pays many truck drivers and there is every incentive to get the load to the location and move on to the next job. Additionally, many truck drivers are actually “owner operators” and under pressure to perform to keep their business afloat.
Many different things in addition to just driving too many hours can cause driver fatigue.
Some problem areas:
• Lack of sleep
• Lack of quality sleep – alcohol consumption
• Monotony and decreased alertness
• Irregular hours
• Pressure to complete the job
In an effort to effectively manage the number of hours driven by a professional truck driver, drivers are required to maintain “log books” which shows the hours of service for each 24-hour period. Unfortunately, the logbooks rely upon the truck driver to fill them out.
Numerous incidents of driver fraud with a logbook have been uncovered after an accident. Mainly it is the pressure of the dollar that gets truck drivers to operate passed the allowed safety limit. And fudge on their logbook reporting.
If you have a family member who has been injured in a large truck crash in Houston, contact a real truck accident attorney to investigate the claim as soon as possible after the crash. Important evidence should be collected early on after an accident.