Truck driver fatigue is described as the result of physical or mental exertion that affects performance. According to information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), studies indicate that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers involved in traffic accidents were found to be fatigued at the time of their crash, making driver fatigue a major cause of truck accidents in the United States. If you were injured in an accident with a commercial truck in Nebraska or Wyoming, your lawyer will likely look at fatigue as one of the potential causes.
How the Federal Government Is Addressing the Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
In 2012, the federal government passed two new regulations to combat the dangers associated with fatigued truck drivers. The regulations are as follows:
Hours of Service Regulations
- If less than eight hours of an off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes have passed, the driver may not drive.
- Property-carrying commercial drivers have a 14-hour window in which they may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
- The regulations only allow drivers to be on-duty for 60 hours in a seven-day period, or 70 hours in an eight-day period. On-duty hours involve more than just driving, also including: time spent loading or unloading the trailer; time spent completing paperwork; time spent waiting to be dispatched; inspecting, servicing, and fueling the truck; time spent submitting saliva or urine for alcohol and drug tests, including travel to and from the collection site; time spent working for someone else at another site; and time spent inside the vehicle, with the exclusion of time spent when the vehicle is parked.
- 60 or 70 hour calculations are restarted after at least 34 hours consecutive hours off-duty or in the sleeper berth. This 34 hour off-duty time shall include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
- Drivers who are operating in adverse driving conditions are allowed up to two extra hours of consecutive driving time.
- People using a commercial vehicle for personal use, such as a truck that is rented in order to move their personal belongings, are exempt from the regulations, provided the transport is not in support of a business.
- If the truck weighs more than 10,000 pounds, has either a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds, or the vehicle is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards, then the driver is subject to hours of service regulations. The regulations apply to the drivers of commercial trucks engaged in interstate commerce, which is the transport of good across state lines. Those operating only within one state’s boundaries are exempt from the rules, though it should be noted that most states in the nation have similar laws that govern them. The Nebraska State Patrol notes that commercial truck drivers only operating within the state are held to the federal hours of service and logbook requirements.
Daily Log Regulations
- Commercial truck drivers are required to log their driving time, either in written form, via an automatic on-board recording device or with an electronic logging device.
- Driver logbooks can be examined by government inspectors at any time. The log must contain information for the past eight days.
- Logs are required for all commercial truck drivers except for those who work with 100 air miles of the trucking company’s location and return to that location and are released within 12 hours. Other exceptions exist for drivers who are hauling goods short distances in a truck that does not require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
Studies indicate that truck drivers are still driving beyond the hours of service limits, even with the regulations in place. However, as reported by Sleep Help, hours of service violations aren’t the only reason for truck driver fatigue. Some other common causes include:
- Sleep apnea: This disorder is known to interrupt sleep, causing a driver to feel fatigued even after a full night’s rest. Studies indicate that sleep apnea causes drivers to feel just as fatigued as if they got less than 5 hours of sleep. Apnea tends to more often affect those who are obese, which is an additional problem in the transportation industry, with more than 38 percent of truck drivers suffering from obesity.
- Drug use: Many drivers use legal and illegal drugs in order to stay awake while driving. Although drivers report that stimulants help them to stay awake, in reality, they can cause drivers to miss their body’s natural warning signs of fatigue.
- Sleeping pills: Truck drivers often use sleeping pills in order to sleep during their mandated rest times. However, prolonged use of sleeping pills has been known to cause sleep inertia, which is the desire to sleep even after you’ve been awake for a while.
- Sleeping in a sleeper berth: While the sleeper berth has solved a lot of problems as to where drivers are supposed to sleep during their breaks, truckers are most likely to have accidents within the first hour after their break if they’ve been sleeping in the sleeper berth.
If You Were Injured in a Truck Accident With a Fatigued Driver
If you were injured due to an accident in Nebraska or Wyoming involving a fatigued truck driver, your options for obtaining the compensation needed for your recovery include filing a third-party claim with the driver’s or the trucking company’s insurance. If the insurance company fails to offer a fair settlement, you may also seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Compensation is made available for the following damages:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning ability
- Property damages
- Pain and suffering
If you lost a loved one due to a truck accident, you may be eligible to receive compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver and/ or the trucking company that he or she works for. The damages you may recover include:
- Loss of consortium
- Compensatory damages
- Loss of future income your loved one would have contributed to your household
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim against a fatigued truck driver in Nebraska is four years from the date of the accident. If your loved one was killed in a truck accident, you have two years to file a claim through the court.
Due to the severity of injuries present in accidents involving big rig trucks, you should seek the guidance of an experienced truck accident attorney to ensure that you’re awarded enough compensation to cover your injuries in the long-term.