Trucker fatigue is a problem that poses an out-sized problem for road users. Of course, any driver who is tired will display symptoms similar to alcohol impairment. However, large, heavy trucks have the potential to cause far more damage in a collision than smaller, lighter vehicles. For this reason, truck drivers and trucking companies have a special obligation to take reasonable measures to reduce driver fatigue. With the advice of a Hazleton truck accident attorney, truck victims can pursue damages from negligent truckers, truck owners and carriers. Fatigued driving cases are notoriously tricky to prove, but it's made easier against trucking firms, thanks to laws requiring drivers to report and limit their time on the road.
Federal Laws Related to Truck Driver Fatigue
Because truck driver fatigue is such a hazard to all road users, federal regulations limit the amount of driving a commercial truck driver can do in a single day and also impose rest requirements. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s current hours of service regulations allow commercial drivers carrying property to drive a maximum of 11 hours after ten hours off duty. Drivers are also prohibited from driving beyond the fourteenth hour after coming on duty, regardless of how much driving time was performed in that 14-hour period. Drivers also may not drive after 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days, or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days. Such regulations have sparked an ongoing debate about hours of service laws. CDL Life reports on trucking executives who were convicted on federal charges of conspiracy for encouraging drivers to violate hours of service regulations. Despite the executives’ admission of violating federal regulations, all of the defendants managed to avoid any jail time in the sentencing.
So what is the answer? Federal regulators continue to examine the problem to find the best solutions to commercial driver fatigue. According to the Federal Register, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking funds from the Office of Management and Budget to conduct a study into excessive driver commuting in the commercial motor vehicle industry. It is hoped that this study will provide valuable insight into the risk factors of truck driver fatigue, and what preventative measures might best prevent fatigue-related traffic accidents.
Pennsylvania Accidents Caused By Fatigue
The effects of fatigued driving are all too real for residents of Pennsylvania. In Cumberland County, a truck driver was sentenced to prison after pleading no contest to homicide by vehicle. ABC 27 reports that the driver told police he “may have fallen asleep” prior to striking another truck driver who was standing next to his own rig. As a result of this fatigue, the victim was killed, and the defendant will now spend the next three to six years in prison.
Fatigued driving can affect drivers of passenger vehicles as well. In Erie County, a 78-year-old Florida man died after falling asleep behind the wheel. Reports from the Meadville Tribune indicate that the driver drifted into the median before hitting a cement drainage culvert. Despite wearing a seat belt, the man died of his injuries.
While a personal admission of fatigue by the at-fault driver is valuable in the case, it's not necessarily the only way we can prove it.
If you have been injured in any car or truck accident caused by trucker fatigue, you have important legal rights. Consult with a Hazleton truck accident attorney as soon as possible after any accident to learn about the important filing deadlines (known as statutes of limitation) which apply to your claim.