Commercial truckers are familiar sights on the nation’s roadways. It seems like there is always a truck on the road no matter what time of day it is. Unfortunately, the long hours that truckers log may put themselves and other motorists in danger.
In the United States each year, 5,000 people are killed and 150,000 injured in 18-wheeler accidents. Of these casualties, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that 750 fatalities and 20,000 injuries are the result of truck driver fatigue.
Fatigue and its effect on driver behavior has been well-studied. In Australia, the world-renowned Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research found that someone who has been awake for 24 or more hours drives like someone with a blood alcohol concentration of .1 or more. The legal limit in many states is .08. This impairment manifests itself in different driver behaviors, including varying vehicle speed, drifting through lanes and failing to make prudent traffic decisions.
A United States Department of Transportation study found that in 1999, 20 percent of truck crashes were fatigue-related. Long highway journeys can make a driver sleepy, as can long shifts that occur over the worst times for fatigue: the early morning and middle of the afternoon.
Now, the FMCSA has proposed new rules for truck drivers’ hours-of-service, the regulations that govern how many consecutive hours truckers can drive and how many hours of rest are required between shifts. Currently, truckers are able to drive 11 hours within a driving window of 14 or 16 hours.
Truck driver fatigue accounts for hundreds of fatalities in the U.S. and even more injuries. The proposed changes to FMCSA regulations would help truckers be more responsible and get the rest they require.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to truck driver fatigue, please consult an experienced personal injury attorney.