Gainesville Truck Accident Attorney
Truck Driver Fatigue
Each year, over 750 people die and almost 20,000 are injured in the thousands of large truck accidents involving a fatigued truck driver. Strictly imposed deadlines and low pay lead truck drivers to drive for extended periods of time with no breaks at all hours of the day. These long hours of driving cause sleep deprivation, circadian desynchronization, and fatigue, which may increase the chances of a serious large truck accident.
Severe driver fatigue can lead even seasoned drivers to hallucinating, blackouts, nodding to sleep, drifting the rig, and other dangerous behaviors that cause serious large truck accidents. Some experts estimate that anywhere from 50% to 75% of all large truck accidents are due to fatigue. The trucking industry estimates that driver fatigue is a factor in 3-6% of all fatal truck crashes, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration holds the figure to be around 15% while some experts claim that the reality is closer to 30%.
Have you been injured in a big truck accident? Contact Steven A. Bagen & Associates Gainesville, Florida big truck accident lawyers today. Our main office is located in Gainesville but we have successfully advocated for clients throughout Northern and Central Florida, including the major metropolitan areas of Jacksonville, Ocala, Orlando, and Daytona. Complete a FREE consultation form online or call us toll free at 1-800-800-2575.
New federal hours-of-service regulations took effect in January 2004. Under these new rules, interstate commercial drivers will be limited to 11 hours of driving time or 14 hours on duty before being required to take a 10-hour break. Drivers will also be limited to 60-77 hours during a 7-day period or 70-88 hours in an 8-day period. Previous rules allowed for a 15-hour day with 10 hours of driving and did not count down time for food, fuel-ups, and loading and unloading as part of the total workday.
The new hours-of-service are the first time the rules have been changed in 60 years. The regulation changes are intended to save 75 lives a year by reducing fatigue and are part of an initiative to reduce truck-related fatalities by half by 2010; however, the goal of dropping fatalities below 5,000 by the year 2000 was not met.
Research indicates that despite the hours-of-service regulations, interstate truckers continue to drive long hours in direct violation of those laws. Currently, truck drivers document their driving hours in written logbooks; they call them “comic books” because they are so easily falsified. However, the installation of electronic recording devices in commercial vehicles whose drivers are required to maintain logbooks should dramatically reduce the falsification of such records.
Despite the drawbacks of the logbooks, inspections of truck drivers, their rigs, and their driving time are the real issue. Inspections are the only way to determine if a driver is violating the hours-of-service regulations, and the evidence suggests that the inspections are not happening with the frequency needed to act as deterrent. Authorities concede that in 2000 they conducted only 2.4 million roadside inspections, although, that year there were more than 7 million trucks.
Of those inspected and found in violation, the most common driver violations involved logbooks, those instruments of recording driving time. Almost 85,000 drivers had no logbook or the logbook was out of date; almost 36,000 had driven longer than allowed; there were more than 18,000 incidents of logbook falsifications.
The long hours driven by truck drivers may lead some of them to the use or abuse of stimulants, sometimes ingesting more than mere coffee. In a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the presence of legal over-the-counter stimulants was detected in 12% of truck drivers tested. A 1999 study detected the presence of illicit drugs in almost 3% of truck drivers tested. And knowing that long-distance drivers are subject to road hypnosis, a drug company received approval in January 2004 to market its narcolepsy drug to fatigued truck drivers.
However, stimulants, rather than making truck drivers more alert, often have no effect on the seriously fatigued and may even contribute a counterproductive drugged or jittery feeling to the already impaired driver.
Contact a Gainesville Truck Accident Attorney today if you have been seriously injured in a trucking accident.