The complexities of truck accidents can make them difficult to investigate. That’s just one reason why working with an experienced truck accident attorney is imperative. The Austin truck accident attorneys at Loewy Law Firm can conduct a comprehensive investigation of the accident on your behalf to help you seek the compensation to which you’re entitled. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more.
It’s crucial for all drivers to stay alert behind the wheel. That’s doubly true for truck drivers since the consequences of truck driver fatigue are potentially deadly. When a tractor-trailer is fully loaded, it can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, making collisions exceedingly dangerous for the average 3,000-pound car. Truck accidents can happen for a variety of reasons, but truck driver fatigue is one of the most common.
Truck drivers spend long hours on the road and work on extremely tight deadlines. In order to make their deliveries on time, some truck drivers exceed the number of hours they’re legally permitted to work, which makes them more likely to drive drowsy and cause a catastrophic accident. If you were the victim of a truck accident caused by driver fatigue, you might be owed compensation from the driver, their employer, and their insurance companies.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
A Large Truck Crash Causation Study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that driver fatigue contributed to 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle crashes. Truck drivers operate their vehicles while tired for many reasons, but some of the most common include:
- Failure to sleep when off duty
- Overly long work hours
- Skipping meals and breaks
- Drowsiness due to medications
- Chronic fatigue
FMCSA Hours of Service Regulations
In an attempt to reduce driver fatigue, the FMCSA created a list of guidelines that dictate the number of hours truck drivers are allowed to work.
- Commercial truck drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours per day.
- Regulations limit shifts to 14 hours. That includes both driving time and breaks.
- Drivers must take at least ten hours off between shifts.
- They may not be behind the wheel for more than eight consecutive hours without taking a half-hour break.
- Commercial truck drivers may work a maximum of 60 hours within a running seven-day period or a maximum of 70 hours in a running eight-day period.
- In instances of inclement weather or other hazardous conditions, truckers may drive for two extra hours beyond the usually 11-hour maximum.
Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
One study cited by the National Sleep Foundation found that being awake for a total of 18 hours impairs a person as much as a blood alcohol concentration of .05, which exceeds the legal limit for commercial drivers of .04. After 24 hours, the same study showed the equivalent of .10 BAC, more than double the limit.
Fatigued drivers have a harder time paying attention to the road, experience delayed reaction times when encountering road hazards, and lose the ability to make sound decisions.
On top of that, truck drivers often carry loads of up to 40 tons. It’s easy to see how fatigued driving can be a recipe for disaster. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) documented 4,119 truck-related fatalities in 2019. Of those, motorists and passengers in other vehicles accounted for a staggering 67 percent.
Common Injuries Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue
Large commercial trucks collisions can result in devastating injuries and death. Some of the most common injuries caused by truck accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries – Any violent blow to the head can cause a traumatic brain injury. Concussions, skull fractures, and hematomas can all occur as a result.
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis – While some spinal injuries are minor, many can be debilitating. If the spine is transected, paralysis can occur below the site of the injury.
- Broken/fractured bones – Truck accidents often cause broken and fractured bones. They can take months to repair and require extensive physical therapy for a patient to fully regain strength and mobility.
- Soft-tissue damage – Soft-tissue injuries occur when the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the body experience trauma, such as tearing. Whiplash is a form of soft-tissue damage that occurs when the head and neck jerk violently back and forth by an impact. Some soft-tissue damage is not immediately apparent, which is why it’s important to get a thorough check-up after a crash.
- Internal injuries – Damage to internal organs and internal bleeding are often life-threatening and can be invisible. They require surgery to repair organs and stop bleeding.
Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident Caused by Driver Fatigue?
Determining legal responsibility for a truck accident can be challenging. It might seem obvious who was at fault when truck driver fatigue causes an accident, but proving it in a personal injury claim isn’t always straightforward. While truck drivers are often found at fault for accidents that occurred when they drove drowsy, trucking companies might also bear some responsibility.
Truck drivers work on very tight deadlines, and they sometimes work longer than they should in order to make deliveries on time. When truck drivers exceed the allowed hours of service, they’re more likely to become drowsy and can be held liable if they cause an accident.
Some reckless trucking companies pressure their drivers to ignore the hours-of-service regulations to meet impossible deadlines and make higher profits. If an investigation finds that the trucking company pushed a driver to operate a vehicle longer than allowed, resulting in a crash, then the trucking company could be held liable in addition to the driver.
How Loewy Can Help
If you were the victim of a truck accident caused by driver fatigue in the Austin area, Loewy Law Firm could help. Our seasoned accident attorneys in Austin have the knowledge and experience necessary to thoroughly investigate your case, determine who was responsible, and pursue the compensation that you deserve aggressively. Find out more in a free consultation by contacting us today.