Drowsy and fatigued driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Despite their great responsibility of operating a large commercial truck safely, truck drivers are often at risk of driving while feeling drowsy or fatigued. The strict deadlines and stringent requirements of the truck driving profession create conditions that make it more likely for truck drivers to become fatigued while on the road. Unfortunately, drowsy or fatigued driving has the potential to lead to a devastating collision.
Truck Driver Hours of Service Requirements
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck drivers are limited in the number of hours that they can spend on duty and behind the wheel each day or over a given week. Commercial drivers’ hours-of-service requirements include:
- May not drive after 14 consecutive hours on duty, following a ten-consecutive-hour off-duty period.
- May only drive up to 11 hours in total after ten consecutive hours off-duty.
- The ten-hour off-duty period must include up to seven consecutive hours of sleep or time spent in a sleeper berth.
- Must take a break of at least 30 consecutive minutes after eight consecutive hours of driving. This 30-minute break may include time on-duty while not driving, time off-duty, time spent in a sleeper berth, or any combination thereof.
- May not drive more than 60 total hours in any seven-day period, or 70 total hours in an eight-day period. These periods reset after at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.
These regulations are intended to help truck drivers avoid becoming fatigued or drowsy while driving.
Why Do Truck Drivers Become Drowsy or Fatigued?
Truck drivers face significant pressure to meet delivery schedules. As a result, truck drivers may inadvertently exceed their hours-of-service limitations trying to reach their intended stopping point or destination at the end of the day, especially if they are slowed down during the day by heavy traffic or bad weather. Truck drivers may also be pressured by their trucking or freight companies to continue operating past their hours-of-service limitations to meet tight deadlines.
Even if a driver stays within the hours-of-service limits, driving for hours at a time can prove mentally taxing for any driver, especially when operating a complex vehicle such as an 18-wheeler. After days on the road, this mental fatigue can catch up to any driver.
How Can Drowsy or Fatigued Driving Lead to a Truck Accident?
Feeling drowsy or fatigued can impair a driver’s perception, judgment, and reaction times, making it harder for a drowsy or fatigued driver to quickly react to an emergency on the road. This can prove especially dangerous for truck drivers, as large commercial trucks do not slow down or maneuver as easily as smaller passenger vehicles. Feeling drowsy or fatigued can also lower inhibitions, making it more likely that a truck driver may engage in aggressive or reckless driving behavior such as speeding, tailgating, or weaving through traffic.
Drowsy or fatigued driving can also lead to the dangerous situation of microsleep, where a driver falls asleep for a few seconds at a time. But at highway speeds, in the time that a truck driver experiences microsleep, their truck may have traveled the distance of a football field or more. Over this distance, a truck driver experiencing microsleep would have been unable to react to any emergency on the road or may end up drifting across traffic lanes or off the road.
Learn How We Can Help
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident caused by a drowsy or fatigued driver, contact a Virginia truck accident lawyer at The Law Office of Steven D. Barnette today for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys. We are proud to serve those who’ve been hurt in Gloucester/Essex, Hampton, Newport News, and our new office in Abingdon is conveniently located for those who’ve been injured in the western part of the state.
If you’ve been injured by a fatigued truck driver, we’ll be ready to help you get justice and fair compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. Our consultations are 100% free, so call (804) 693-2274 or fill out a contact form online to schedule yours today.