Driver fatigue often cause of truck accidents

Accidents involving commercial trucks involve some additional complications that don’t necessarily arise during standard auto accident cases involving regular passenger vehicles. The potential parties who will be involved with the case include not just the driver of the truck, but also the owner of the truck or the trucking company.

These types of cases also require an understanding of the various regulations that govern the trucking industry. An experience attorney is invaluable in navigating a fair settlement.

Here’s an overview of what you should know about truck accidents and driver fatigue to proceed with a personal injury claim if you’ve been injured or a wrongful death claim for a loved one’s passing after an accident caused by a commercial truck driver.

Causes and statistics

Drivers of large semi trucks are trained to be patient, safe drivers, but the high-pressure nature of the job can be exhausting. Truck drivers often are forced to meet tight deadlines and have pressure from their superiors to accomplish their jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible. In many cases, there are compensation systems that encourage drivers to arrive at their destination faster, which can encourage speeding and breaking hours of operation rules.

It should come as no surprise, then, that driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of truck accidents. Federal statistics indicate driver fatigue accounts for approximately 13 percent of all accidents involving large trucks every year in the United States. In addition, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research indicates drivers of large trucks are more likely than the general population to drive while fatigued.

There are approximately 500,000 trucking accidents per year in the United States, about 5,000 of which result in death.

Other common causes of truck accidents are consistent with common causes of regular car accidents: speeding, driver error, sudden stops and vehicle malfunctions.

Federal regulations and liability

There are numerous federal regulations that govern operations in the trucking industry. All truck companies, owners and drivers must adhere to the standard set by these regulations, which include rules about hours of operation and various other safety requirements.

Here are just a couple examples of these regulations:

  • 14-hour window: Truck drivers are allowed to be “on” for a period of 14 consecutive hours, in which they can drive up to 11 hours, so long as they have been off-duty for at least 10 hours. The extra three hours in that 14-hour window should include breaks and meal times. Upon completion of that 14-hour window, the driver must wait at least another 10 consecutive hours before beginning another 14-hour window.
  • 30-minute break: If a driver has had more than eight consecutive hours pass since their last off-duty period of at least a half hour, then the driver is required to take a 30-minute rest break.

These regulations and additional rules exist to prevent truck drivers from being overly fatigued while on the road while still giving them reasonable opportunity to meet their deadlines.

Liable parties in an accident can include the truck driver, the owner of the truck or trailer, the company or person that leased the truck or trailer from the owner, the manufacturer of any parts of the vehicle that contribute to the accident or the shipper/loader of any cargo on the vehicle.

For more information about the steps you should take to hold negligent commercial drivers and trucking companies liable for your accident, contact an experienced commercial truck accident lawyer today.