Have You Been Injured in a Truck Accident Caused by a Driver Fatigue?
Accidents involving commercial truck drivers account for a significant number of deaths and injuries across the nation. Commercial trucks are typically in fewer accidents than passenger cars per mile. However, they account for a statistically significant number of crashes and deaths on the road.
Truck Accident Statistics
According to statistics from the NHTSA, commercial trucks account for:
- 10% of vehicle miles travelled
- 4% of registered vehicles
- 8% of crashes that result in fatalities.
In real numbers, in 2018, these percentages translated into 4,951 truck accident fatalities. Further, in 2017, in the area of 107,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks. And due to the great disparity between the mass of commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, much less of the fatalities and injuries occurred to the occupants of the large trucks. In Illinois alone, commercial truck crashes bear responsibility, on average, for over 170 deaths per year.
One of the factors that contributes significantly to trucking accidents is driver fatigue. According to a study conducted by the NHTSA, driver fatigue was a primary factor in roughly 13% of truck accidents. Fatigue may actually play a role in a much greater number of accidents. This is because truck drivers in crashes also indicate “inattention” as a factor.
Can Truck Driver Fatigue Lead to Death?
Driver fatigue is critical because of the hours that commercial truck drivers spend on the road. As a general rule, truck drivers are paid by the mile. Also, delivery schedules put tremendous pressure upon drivers to drive for extended periods in order to meet deadlines. This is particularly true in more recent years as companies promise “overnight” and “two-day” deliveries across the nation. Drivers feel the need to push themselves to the limit, failing to obtain the sleep and rest necessary for driving safely. Delivery schedules are, quite literally, killing people.
Study on Truck Driver Fatigue
A study performed by the NHTSA of 80 commercial truck drivers who logged over 200,000 miles concluded that driver alertness and attention was severely impacted by fatigue. Further, it compared the problem of fatigue to driving while intoxicated. In the study, they found that:
- Regardless of how long they had been on the road, fatigue was eight times more likely to impact drivers during the hours of midnight to 6 a.m.;
- Drivers on long runs were likely to sleep for only five hours at a stint. This is at least 2 hours shorter than necessary for optimal alertness;
- Drivers were not very good at assessing their own level of alertness. They err on the side of being overconfident in their ability to drive safely.
Maximum Driving Hours Regulations
Partly as a result of this study, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passed a regulation regarding interstate commercial truck drivers. The intent of the law is to reduce the incidence of fatigue and fatigue-related accidents. Also, to reduce the long-term health problems associated with chronic fatigue that many long-haul truck drivers experience. This rule sets the maximum number of hours that drivers may work through several mechanisms:
- A driver may only start a work shift after 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- Once a driver starts a shift, he or she may not work longer than 14 consecutive hours.
- A driver may not drive more than 11 hours of the 14-hour shift.
- A driver may not drive at all if it has been more than 8 hours since he had an off-duty or sleeper-berth break of at least 30 minutes.
- If a driver has been on duty for 70 hours in 8 consecutive days, he must take a minimum of 34 consecutive hours of time off-duty. Further, that off-duty period must include two periods from 1 to 5 a.m. (For example, the motor company cannot schedule the driver’s 34-hour break from 6:00 a.m. until 4: p.m. the following day, since that would include only one period from 1 to 5:00 a.m.).
- Finally, the law provides that motor carriers may not “restart” a driver on a new shift after a 34-hour break within 168 hours (that is, 7 days) of the beginning of the last 34 hour break.
70 Hours Per Week Limit
In practical terms, the sum of this rule means that, every seven days, a driver can only work a maximum of five 14-hour days in one week. That is, 70 hours per week.
These rules, and the fines that accompany non-compliance with them, will hopefully reduce the incidence of accidents associated with fatigue that involve commercial truck drivers. However, they only apply to commercial trucks that operate under federal motor carrier standards. Meaning, interstate truckers, rather than intrastate trucking. The attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. will do their utmost to enforce the goal of these regulations by representing clients who suffer injury in accidents due to truck driver fatigue.
How Can Our Chicago Truck Accident Attorneys Assist You?
Getting in an accident involving a large commercial truck is always frightening. It can often be a deadly experience. And unfortunately, many of these accidents are caused by truckers who have been pushed to drive when they are too fatigued to do so safely.
The Chicago personal injury attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C., have experience in helping the victims of truck accidents. We also help family members recover damages for a wrongful death. We have the resources and know-how to pursue compensation from trucking companies and their insurers. This, even when they are based out-of-state and when they are represented by high-powered lawyers and law-firms. We know the stringent laws and regulations that commercial carriers must comply with, and our clients will get the protection and aggressive representation that they deserve.
If you have been injured in a truck accident by a driver who was suffering from fatigue, contact the Chicago truck crash attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. in Chicago at (312) 924-7575, or use our online form. Your consultation is completely free and, if we agree to take your case, we will not charge any fee unless and until damages are recovered on your behalf.