Fatigued Truck Driving

Fatigue is a well-known problem plaguing the truck driving industry. Unfortunately, the U.S. has been dealing with a widespread truck driver shortage for years, leading to more inexperienced and overworked truckers on the road and an increased risk of fatigued truck driving accidents.

Drowsy driving is dangerous for any motorist, but getting behind the wheel of a semi-truck when overtired is a recipe for disaster. The vast size difference between a tractor-trailer and the average passenger car means that the smaller car always sustains the worst damage. It also makes the occupants of the other vehicle vulnerable to serious and catastrophic injuries.

Were you hurt in a truck accident caused by driver fatigue? Find out your rights to compensation by speaking with a truck accident lawyer at Trollinger Law LLC. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.

What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?

Truck drivers are expected to follow strict federal rules to avoid fatigue behind the wheel. When they don’t get enough rest, fatigue can set in while driving. Truck driver fatigue is commonly caused by:

  • Driving for long periods: Truckers drive for hours at a time, and sitting for long periods of time can lead to sleepiness. The monotony of long stretches on the road can also have a hypnotic, sleep-inducing effect.
  • Driving at dusk or at night: Driving when it’s mostly or fully dark is dangerous because it disrupts the body’s natural wake-and-sleep cycles. Most people are more likely to feel tired at night or early in the morning, and lower light levels make it harder to see.
  • Lack of sleep: Insufficient sleep makes drivers less alert and affects coordination and reaction time. When truck drivers don’t get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, they put everyone on the road at risk.
  • Inconsistent scheduling: An irregular sleep routine can make it difficult to achieve the deep, restful sleep we need to stay healthy. When truckers work odd or inconsistent hours, they may be dangerously drowsy even after a full eight hours of sleep.
  • Unreasonable delivery quotas: Some trucking companies pay drivers by the mile or impose unreasonable delivery demands on their workers. This can encourage drivers to work longer and drive farther without breaks, increasing the likelihood of a drowsy driving truck accident.
  • Time changes: Truck drivers who haul cargo across the country may pass through multiple time zones in a single trip. This can easily lead to sleep disruptions that intensify drowsiness because truckers’ internal clocks take time to adjust to the change.
  • Sleep disorders: Certain medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, increase the risk of poor sleep and drowsiness during waking hours. When these conditions are untreated, truckers may become dangerously tired on the road. A recent study of 20,000 truck drivers found that nearly half potentially suffered from untreated sleep apnea.
  • Poor diet and lack of exercise: Truck drivers who skip meals or overeat on the road may have difficulty staying awake. Similarly, a lack of regular exercise can make it difficult to fall asleep at night, leading to sleep difficulties and other dangerous health conditions, such as heart disease and blood clots.
  • Substance abuse: Alcohol and drugs can have a sedative effect on the body, making them more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel. Truckers who drive while impaired violate both Maryland and federal trucking laws and can be held accountable if their actions cause a fatigue-related accident.

How Does Fatigue Contribute to Truck Crashes?

Research from the National Safety Council (NSC) suggests that severe fatigue can cause symptoms similar to drunkenness. Studies have estimated that drivers are three times as likely to be involved in crashes while fatigued and that driving after 20 hours of sleep deprivation is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit.

The dangers of truck driver fatigue also worsen the drowsier a driver becomes. Fatigue makes it more difficult for truckers to remain alert, look out for road hazards, react quickly, and sustain their attention over long periods.

In some cases, truckers use legal or illicit stimulants to keep themselves artificially awake during the day. Unfortunately, these drugs can make drowsy driving accidents even more likely because the signs of fatigue become difficult to identify as drivers coast toward a crash once the stimulants wear off.

Truck Driver Hours of Service Regulations

To combat the effects of truck driver fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes hours of service (HOS) regulations that govern the amount of time truck drivers can spend on duty or behind the wheel. Current HOS regulations include:

  • An 11-hour driving limit: Truckers who transport cargo are limited to a maximum of 11 hours of driving time after at least 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • A 14-hour on-duty limit: Cargo truckers are prohibited from driving beyond the 14th consecutive hour of coming on duty after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Additional off-duty hours may not be used to extend the 14-hour limit.
  • A 30-minute break requirement: Drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after driving for eight cumulative hours without an interruption. This requirement can be satisfied after 30 consecutive minutes of any non-driving activity, including on-duty work.
  • A 60/70-hour on-duty limit: Truckers are prohibited from driving after 60 on-duty hours within a consecutive seven-day period or 70 on-duty hours within a consecutive eight-day period. A driver can “reset” the clock after a consecutive seven-or eight-day period by spending at least 34 hours off-duty.
  • The sleeper berth rule: This provision allows drivers to split their required 10 hours of off-duty time into two periods, as long as one period is at least two hours long and the other involves seven consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth.
  • The adverse driving conditions rule: If truckers encounter dangerous driving conditions, such as extreme weather, this exception allows drivers to extend the 11-hour and 14-hour driving time limits by up to two hours.
  • The short-haul exception: Drivers who operate within a 150-mile radius are exempt from certain documentation and reporting requirements, as long as they still have 10-hour minimum breaks and do not exceed 14 hours on duty.

What Can I Do If a Fatigued Truck Driver Caused My Accident?

It can be challenging to prove that fatigue contributed to a Waldorf, MD truck accident. That’s why it’s so important to protect your injury claim as early as possible.

It may be impossible to take immediate preventive measures if you’ve been catastrophically injured. If paramedics need to transport you to the hospital, go. Otherwise, your next best steps include:

  • Gathering evidence from the crash scene: Any evidence you can collect can be valuable in a truck accident claim. Take photos, talk to witnesses, and write down every detail you can recall. In addition, get a copy of the police accident report.
  • Seeking prompt medical attention: If you didn’t need emergency care, you still need to see a doctor. An exam may reveal undetected injuries that can worsen over time, such as a concussion or internal trauma. Visiting a doctor will also establish a permanent record of your condition and give you the best shot at maximizing your recovery personally and in a legal claim.
  • Following your doctor’s orders: If your doctor arranges a prescription, treatment plan, or follow-up appointment for you, be sure to follow it exactly. Otherwise, insurance adjusters or defense attorneys may have an excuse to argue that you’re not as injured as you claim to be.
  • Starting a pain journal: Document the physical effects of your truck accident injuries in a daily diary. This can include a number rating of your level of pain (on a scale of 1-10) as well as any physical or personal limitations you experience.
  • Keeping track of accident-related expenses: Your medical bills, receipts, and invoices from any crash-related costs can provide important proof of the full value of your truck accident claim.
  • Don’t talk to the insurance company right away: It’s true that you will need to report the crash to your insurer promptly. Check your auto policy for the deadline. If possible, talk to a truck accident attorney before making any statements about the wreck. It’s surprisingly easy to provide details that could damage your ability to claim compensation later.
  • Avoiding social media: Anything you say or share on social media could potentially be accessed by other parties and used to discredit your claim. To be safe, it’s best to avoid all social media activity while your claim is pending.
  • Contacting a knowledgeable attorney: An experienced truck accident lawyer at Trollinger Law LLC can investigate the wreck determine if truck driver fatigue was a factor in the crash.

How a Fatigued Trucking Accident Lawyer Can Help

Truck accidents are not like car accidents. Truck accident claims tend to involve more devastation, more severe injuries, expensive treatment, and more liable parties. If you were involved in a Waldorf fatigued driving truck accident, you need a lawyer who can help you by:

  • Evaluating the strength of your claim: An attorney can help you determine whether you have grounds for a successful claim and calculate how much your claim could be worth.
  • Gathering solid evidence: Lawyers can often access evidence that’s difficult for individuals to track down themselves. This is especially critical in truck accident claims since most modern trucking companies have a wealth of data from electronic logging devices (ELDs) and company records.
  • Communicating with others on your behalf: Talking to insurance representatives, trucking executives, or lawyers is not a job to handle alone. An attorney can communicate with others for you to avoid unnecessary stress and common pitfalls that could damage your case.
  • Negotiating for maximum compensation: The goal of any injury claim is to obtain full and fair compensation for your losses. Your lawyer will negotiate with insurance and trucking companies to maximize your ultimate award. This usually happens through a settlement, but your attorney can advise whether it’s better to take your claim to court to pursue a better result.

Contact a Fatigued Semi-Truck Accident Lawyer in Waldorf, MD

If you or a loved one was hurt in a Maryland truck accident caused by fatigue, you likely have a legal claim. Reach out to a fatigued semi-trailer truck accident lawyer in Waldorf at Trollinger Law LLC to learn more in a free consultation. Call or contact us now.