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Truck Driver Fatigue

If you have been in an accident with a commercial vehicle, truck driver fatigue may have played a role in your case. The trucking industry has a history of working drivers for long periods with little rest, and this practice has been shown to contribute to commercial vehicle accidents. Although the federal government mandates rest periods for drivers, truckers often wind up driving while fatigued due to their own negligence, the mismanagement or negligence of their employers, or the demanding conditions they face in their industry.

The problem is incredibly widespread. According to a study published in the journal Safety and Health at Work, over half of professional drivers surveyed said they had experienced sleepiness, nodded off, or even dozed while on the road an average of 3.8 times in one month’s span. Out of the same set of drivers, over 53 percent said they had had a near miss due to fatigued driving, and almost one-fifth of respondents admitted that they had been in an accident due to sleepiness.

If you have been injured in an accident with a truck driver, you deserve to understand whether or not truck driver fatigue was a factor in your collision — and what you can do about it. Here’s what you need to know about the issue, and how it may impact your truck accident case.

The Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue

Drowsy driving is known to be a contributing factor in many accidents. The CDC estimates that at least one in 25 drivers have fallen asleep on the road, causing an estimated 72,000 accidents and 41,000 injuries. Fatigue seriously impairs an individual’s response time, ability to make decisions, and attention to the task at hand. Some experts estimate that sleep deprivation can have just as great an effect on a person’s ability to drive as alcohol does.

Commercial drivers are at an elevated risk of sleep deprivation. Truckers spend long hours on the road, often at night, driving across monotonous highways — all of which can contribute to drowsy driving and increased rates of accidents among professional truckers. Drivers who fall asleep on the road can cause serious damage and severe injuries, particularly since commercial trucks are so much heavier than other vehicles and are typically traveling on highways at high speeds. The bottom line is that drowsy truck drivers pose a serious risk on the road — and it’s very possible that driver fatigue may have contributed to or caused your accident.

What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?

There are many factors that contribute to truck driver fatigue. The difficult working conditions and poor management practices common to the industry can seriously affect drivers’ ability to perform their jobs. Here are just a few factors to consider.

  • Long hours. Although there are laws stipulating rest periods for commercial drivers, these regulations do not typically go far enough to stop truck driver fatigue. Truckers often work long hours with little rest in between. For instance, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allows truckers to drive for 11 hours at a time with only a half-hour rest period — but they can work for up to 14 hours in a shift, performing maintenance, loading and unloading, and other work done off the road. Additionally, these regulations only require a 10-hour rest period between shifts, which means drivers may be asked to work hours or even days with very little time for recovery or rest.
  • Employer pressure. Commercial carriers that hire drivers often pressure their employees to work long, punishing shifts by assigning serious penalties and fines to drivers who must miss a shift or are late unloading freight. It is not uncommon for drivers to be fined several hundred dollars for a late delivery. Drivers are also typically paid by the mile, not by the hour — another factor that encourages them to drive for long hours at a time. Truckers also frequently complain that they feel pressured by employers to work the maximum allowable hours, so it’s very possible that they are driving when they are not adequately rested.
  • Falsified rest period records. Professional drivers are required to keep logbooks documenting the amount of time they spend on the road and at rest. In some cases, however, drivers may misrepresent the time they spent off duty as a way to make up hours lost to traffic, unloading delays, and other issues. When this occurs, drivers may be held accountable for the losses they cause in an accident.
  • Employer negligence. Pressuring drivers is bad enough; however, there have been many cases where motor carriers have outright coerced drivers into falsifying reported rest periods. Employers may explicitly train drivers to ignore these rules. If there is evidence that this is the case, these motor carriers can be held responsible for their negligence.
  • Alcohol and drug use. Many drivers abuse substances while on the road. Cocaine, methamphetamines, and other stimulants are commonly used by drivers to stay alert while driving. Others turn to depressants like alcohol and marijuana to ease the stress of their working conditions. The use of these substances behind the wheel severely impairs a trucker’s ability to drive safely. Not only can they slow reaction time and negatively impact a driver’s decision-making ability, they may also cause sleepiness and contribute to overall sleep deprivation and fatigue.
How Truck Driver Fatigue May Impact Your Case

If you have been hit by a commercial driver, driver fatigue may be partially to blame. Properly investigating what caused your accident, and whether or not drivers and motor carriers fulfilled their obligations, often takes extensive legwork and legal expertise.

A commercial vehicle accident lawyer can help you document statements from drivers and witnesses to determine whether or not drowsy driving was a factor in your accident. Accident lawyers can also help you understand the circumstances surrounding your accident, looking into driver logbooks, driving records, and employer records and practices that may be pertinent to your case. An experienced commercial lawyer understands federal motor carrier regulations and can pinpoint whether or not drivers failed to adhere to these rules.

If a driver appears to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol and fell asleep behind the wheel, police will typically initiate their own investigation and begin criminal proceedings if they find enough evidence to warrant it. This can impact your case as well, since some evidence may not be accessible until after the criminal case is resolved. An accident lawyer can help here, too, guiding you through the criminal and civil proceedings and helping you stay informed of the status of your case.

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Why Should You Hire FVF Law to Handle Your Truck Accident?

There is no shortage of personal injury lawyers, but FVF stands out among the best truck accident lawyers in Austin due to our experience, outstanding case results, and commitment to our clients. Here’s what our firm can bring to your case:

  • Excellent track record. At FVF, we have a history of resolving complicated commercial truck accident cases and achieving outstanding results for our clients. Our firm also boasts sterling reviews on Yelp, Google, and AVVO and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
  • Experience. With over 70 combined years of legal expertise among our team, you can be sure that your truck accident case will be in the right hands. Our knowledgeable staff understands how to properly investigate your truck accident and can help you prepare a strong and strategic case to obtain the compensation you need to recover.
  • Commitment to our ethics. Our team at FVF is dedicated to transparency and honest counsel. We pride ourselves on our commitment to a more straightforward and trustworthy approach to personal injury law.
  • Pressure-free counsel. We want accident victims to feel supported, no matter their circumstances. That’s why we offer a free case evaluation for every individual who contacts us. We can help you understand your rights and options with no pressure to engage our legal services afterward.
  • Practical advice and sympathetic guidance. At FVF, we have worked with hundreds of accident victims, and we know just how difficult these incidents can be. We strive to provide clients with level-headed, practical guidance — not just about their legal rights, but also about their medical health and financial situation. And we do it with the compassion and understanding that comes from years of personal injury case experience.

If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial truck driver, it’s important to act quickly to determine whether truck driver fatigue was behind your collision. You deserve to know your rights and options as you decide how to move forward with your case. Get in touch today for a free consultation so you can make the best choice for your case.

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