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Fatigued Truck Drivers

Hurt By a Commercial Driver Who Fell Asleep Behind the Wheel?  You Need a Florida Truck Accident Attorney to Manage Your Claim

Our fast-paced culture demands products and services immediately. Truck companies have responded by pressuring drivers to make deliveries in unreasonable timeframes. These companies often knowingly put sleep-deprived drivers behind the wheel or create a corporate culture in which driving while tired is widely accepted and even expected. The ensuing accidents, however, are not worth the risk and many victims need to consult with a Florida truck accident attorney to help put their lives back together. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that more than 4,000 people died in crashes with commercial vehicles in 2017 and cites tired driving as a leading cause. Tired drivers themselves often die in these horrific and unnecessary accidents, but others are at risk, as well.  Of the 4,102 people killed in 2017 truck crashes, 17% were truck drivers, 68% were drivers and other occupants of passenger vehicles, and 14% were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists.

Searcy Denney has represented Florida drivers injured in vehicle crashes for more than 40 years. Our legal team has the experience and resources to pursue not only a fatigued truck driver who may have caused a crash, but also the large trucking corporation responsible for an accident involving its fleets and drivers.

Hours of Service Rules

FMCSA regulations govern the numbers of hours commercial drivers are permitted to work and drive, and mandate periodic rest breaks. The hours of service (HOS) rules also require drivers and their employers to keep logs of their driving, working and rest periods.

Generally, these rules regulate truck drivers:

  • Drive time: May drive up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • Workday: May not drive beyond the 14th hour from the time he or she came on duty.
  • Rest requirement: Must take at least a 30-minute rest period after eight hours of consecutive drive time, with exceptions for short-haul drivers.
  • Workweek: 60 and 70-hour driving limits apply to seven and eight-day workweeks.
  • Sleeping birth provisions: A driver who sleeps in the sleeping birth must do so for at least eight hours, plus a separate two hours off duty, which may be spent in the sleeping birth

Bus drivers are subject to similar HOS rules, including:

  • Drive time: May drive up to 10 hours after eight consecutive off-duty hours
  • Workday: May not drive beyond the 15th hour from the time she or he came on duty
  • Workweek: 60 and 70-hour driving limits apply to seven and eight-day workweeks
  • Sleeping birth provisions: A driver who sleeps in the sleeping birth must do so for at least eight hours, which can be split between two periods provided neither is less than two hours.

The introduction of electronic logging devices and their ability to accurately record hours of service prompted requests from members of Congress and the trucking industry to revise HOS regulations. The FMCSA convened five listening sessions in 2018 to discuss suggestions for how to provide greater flexibility for drivers without sacrificing safety. More than 5,200 comments were received on proposals for:

  • Expanding the current 100 mile “short-haul” exemption beyond the current 12 hours on-duty;
  • Extending by two hours the current 14-hour on-duty limit when there are adverse driving conditions;
  • Revising the 30-minute mandatory break for drivers after eight hours driving; and
  • Reinstating tan option for splitting the mandatory 10-hours off-duty rest break for drivers of trucks equipped with a sleeper berth.
  • A petition from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association related to rest breaks;
  • Another petition from Trucker Nation requesting a change in off-duty and break requirements.

Although the FMCSA had hoped to announce results in June 2019, an anticipated notice of proposed rulemaking for truck drivers’ hours-of-service regulations remains under review at the Office of Management and Budget.  

Electronic Logbooks

Typically, the trucking corporation provides its own documentation of driving, shift and rest hours.  For many years, truck drivers kept paper logs, entering hand-written data every day.  But in December 2015, federal law required all trucking companies to use an electronic logging device, called an ELD, that automatically records driving time and monitors engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information.

The FMCSA believed that requiring electronic logs would strengthen commercial truck drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations that prevent fatigue. In addition, roadside safety inspectors have been able to detect violations of the law that could endanger the lives of other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Why Tired Driving Is Dangerous

Tired drivers are a menace on the road. The effects of sleepiness and fatigue substantially increase the risk of serious accident. Studies have shown that drowsiness results in:

  • Less attentiveness
  • Slower reaction time
  • Impaired judgment and decision-making
  • Nodding off behind the wheel

The NTSA’s 2017 data indicates that 16% of all fatal vehicle crashes involve drowsy driving. Harvard Medical School researchers and National Heart Lung and Blood Institute staff have associated sleep apnea (OSA) as a cause of truck driver fatigue. OSA occurs when a person’s airway collapses or is blocked while sleeping and results in insufficient sleep. A major risk factor for sleep apnea is obesity, and as many as 40% to 50% of commercial drivers are obese.

The number of catastrophic truck crashes attributed to sleep deprivation in the last few years has made headlines illustrating just how dangerous a tired driver can be. Just three examples:

  • In April 2015, a big rig in Georgia smashed its way into a line of passenger cars waiting for another accident to clear, killing five people. The driver was discovered to have a history of sleep apnea.
  • In January 2014, a big rig on the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway outside of Chicago barreled into a disabled truck that had pulled off the road. The rig driver, who was asleep at the wheel, was killed; his companion was injured, and a state trooper who had stopped to help was set on fire when his car’s gas tank exploded.
  • In a March 2013 fatal truck crash in Kentucky, a truck driver rear-ended a passenger car and killed six people. Investigations by the FMCSA revealed that the driver had been driving well beyond hours-of-service regulations and had falsified his records – both at the demand of the company that owned the truck.

Don’t Leave Your Case Up to Chance! Call a Florida Truck Accident Attorney Today

The Florida truck crash lawyers at Searcy Denney have more than 40 years’ experience with clients in circumstances similar to yours. Please contact us for a free, confidential consultation to help you learn your rights and explore your options for pursuing recovery from the person and/or corporation responsible. Call now or complete our contact form online

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