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Fatigued Driving Is a Violation of Federal Trucking Laws

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in a recent year there were 330,000 commercial truck accidents in the United States; a large percentage of those accidents involved a fatigued truck driver, or a trucker who "fell asleep" at the wheel. Unfortunately, truckers have a history of violating the federal hours of service regulations, and pushing the limits of their bodies' sleep-wake cycle to meet the strict deadlines they are under – at the expense of other motorists.

If you were injured by a fatigued truck driver, our Dallas truck accident lawyers at The Lenahan Law Firm stand ready to represent you against the trucking company and their insurance carrier. We take on a limited number of cases, which allows us to devote the necessary time, energy, and resources into obtaining maximum compensation for our clients! If we sound like the right law firm for you, then call us at (214) 295-1008 today.

Understanding Driver Fatigue

Fatigue is rarely treated as the serious issue that it is. The alarming truth is that when drivers are overly tired, the impact on their brains is nearly identical to being drunk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being awake for 18 hours straight is the same as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05%, and being awake for over 24 hours is the same as having a BAC of .10%. For context, the legal BAC limit for truck drivers is .04% -- even a minor case of fatigue would be equivalent to a driver getting behind the wheel drunk.

Fatigue can lead drivers to swerve into the wrong lane, take a turn too fast, or even fail to hit the brakes before colliding with another vehicle. Whatever the case may be, there is little doubt that a tired truck driver is incredibly dangerous. Other side effects of fatigue include:

  • Slow reaction time
  • Quick to anger
  • Nodding off
  • Lack of alertness
  • Impaired decision making skills
  • Forgetfulness

As trucks are much heavier and larger than standard passenger vehicles, a collision between a truck and another vehicle is going to cause catastrophic damage to the smaller vehicle and its passengers. That is why federal regulations have been put in place to combat the causes of fatigue in truck drivers, which include:

  • Sleep loss
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Excessive mental or cognitive work
  • Being awake continuously
  • Quality and quantity of sleep
  • Disrupted biological clock
  • Highway hypnosis

Even a good night’s worth of sleep is unlikely to save a driver from chronic fatigue. Sleep loss is cumulative, and when truckers fail to get adequate rest, it builds a debt. If a truck driver fails to get adequate sleep for several days in a row, then even an extended break may not be enough. In an effort to combat this risk, federal regulations have been put in place that establish how much sleep and rest truck drivers are legally required to get.

Trucking Regulations and Sleep

A truck driver’s job is to get cargo from one point to the next. Without these drivers, our economy would come to a halt, as they are largely responsible for the transportation of goods across this country. Getting cargo from point A to point B often requires long hours, which is one of the many reasons why truck drivers are so often fatigued. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has many rules in place about how long drivers can be on the road. Important regulations include:

  • An 11-hour driving limit
  • An off-duty minimum of 10 hours
  • A 14-hour shift limit
  • A 30-minute break requirement following 8 hours of driving
  • A 60/70-hour limit per work period
  • A 34-hour minimum break between work periods

These rules are meant to ensure that truck drivers do not become overly fatigued or fall asleep at the wheel. In theory, all drivers should be getting a full night’s worth of sleep every night. However, these regulations can cause trip times to increase, which, in turn, can cut into the trucking company’s profits. As a result, many trucking companies will push their drivers to the extreme.

How Trucking Companies Cause Fatigue

The faster a delivery is made, the more money a trucking company can make. A trucking company’s profits rely on the amount of cargo shipped over a period of time. That means that FMCSA’s regulations, which are good for the truck drivers and for everyone else on the road, cut into the profits of the trucking companies. While you may assume that these companies would not dare to break the law, many will cut corners in order to ensure they make as much money as possible.

This rule-breaking can take many forms. The company may threaten to dock the pay of truck drivers who take the required break, or who get off the road after an 11-hour shift. The company may even go so far as to threaten to fire any driver that follows the regulations. However, some companies try to be a bit more subtle. They may simply take away the required 30-minute break or cut the driver’s rest hours down by just an hour or two. The company may also enforce tight deadlines, blaming drivers who don’t manage to make it to their destination in time due to the FMCSA regulations.

There are a number of ways for truck companies to force their drivers to work longer hours than is safe. We at The Lenahan Law Firm have gone up against countless trucking companies and have seen their underhanded tricks for ourselves. While the federal regulations are a good first step in eliminating truck driver fatigue, it does not mean our Dallas roads are safe from overly tired truck drivers.

Contact Dallas Truck Accident Attorneys at The Lenahan Law Firm Today

At The Lenahan Law Firm, we know all about truck accidents and the federal regulations that truck drivers and trucking companies are supposed to adhere to. When you work with us, we bring our expertise and skill to the table, fighting against negligent trucking companies that would rather pay you pennies than admit to fault. Going into a truck accident claim alone is a huge mistake. You need help from excellent Dallas fatigued trucker accident attorneys.

Let us use our knowledge to help you. Call our firm at (214) 295-1008 or contact us online today to schedule a free initial case evaluation.

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