According to the Department of Transportation, nearly 4,000 people die in large truck accidents each year with lack of sleep and/or fatigue among truckers being the leading factors. In December 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first published the Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule to combat and reduce the number of accidents involving driver fatigue.
This regulation basically has two requirements. One is that commercial drivers take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their shift and the second is that drivers have a 34-hour rest period between what are usually lengthy driving shifts. These rules essentially reduced the maximum number of hours a truck driver may work each week from 82 hours to 70 hours.
Why Truck Driver Fatigue is Dangerous
New research is showing that long work hours without sufficient recovery time leads to reduced sleep and chronic fatigue. Such fatigue causes drivers to have slower reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations quickly. One of the dangerous elements of fatigue is just how quickly it can “sneak up” on operators – whether one is driving a smaller passenger car or an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer.
Research also shows that commercial and larger vehicle operators, like most other drivers, are not able to assess their own fatigue levels accurately. Often, they are not even aware that they are swerving or driving dangerously. In many instances fatigued drivers do not know that they are drifting between lanes.
Liability in Truck Driver Fatigue Crashes
If you have been injured in a truck accident in which driver fatigue played a role, a diligent and thorough investigation would be required to prove that the operator’s fatigue did in fact cause the accident and resulting injuries. In such cases, both the truck driver and his or her employer can be held accountable. Plaintiffs in such cases must prove that the driver was negligent, had a duty to exercise reasonable care, failed to exercise such care by driving fatigued, which caused the victims to suffer injuries and damages.
Truck drivers are required to keep logs to record the number of hours they work in order to show that they are complying with federal hours-of-service regulations. It is not uncommon for truck drivers to be careless about these logs and for trucking companies to turn a blind eye to illegal practices. You need an experienced Sacramento truck accident attorney on your side who can help preserve critical evidence such as truck driver logs before they get destroyed or misplaced, by sending a spoliation letter.
Compensation for Victims
Injured victims of truck accidents can seek and obtain compensation for damages including medical bills, lost wages, hospitalization, rehabilitation, permanent injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Families of deceased victims can file wrongful death claims seeking compensation as well. Call Demas Law Group P.C., at (916) 444-0100 to find out how we can help you get justice and fair compensation for your losses.