Were You in a Truck Accident Caused by Driver Fatigue?
Truck drivers don’t have easy jobs. Long hours, tight deadlines, and constantly being on the move can make for a stressful life. Because of these risk factors, truck drivers must be constantly vigilant regarding their ability to safely be on the road. Driver fatigue can happen to anyone, but lifestyle factors make the condition more likely to affect long-haul truckers. That, plus the heightened danger of big rig accidents, means truck driver fatigue is a public health issue.
How do you get a driver to admit to unsafe behavior after an accident, especially when their CDL and reputation may be on the line? It’s not easy, and you need an experienced attorney team like ours at Cullan & Cullan on your side. Here’s how we approach the issue of fatigue in truck accidents.
Truck Driver Fatigue Is Too Common
Truck drivers’ unforgiving schedules often lead to them not being able to get enough sleep between their driving shifts. Tight deadlines may make truckers feel they do not have time to rest up, even when they know they’re too tired to drive. In fact, adverse driving conditions rarely cause a trucker to change their plans. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of truck drivers found that when facing fatigue, bad weather, or heavy traffic:
- 24% “often” continued their route
- 47% “sometimes” continued their route
Together, that’s 71 percent—nearly 3 of every 4 truck drivers—who admit to operating in subpar conditions. Even if they make this decision because of their job’s demands, it has the potential to spell dangers for others. After a truck accident, it’s important for the victim and their lawyer to consider whether such factors could be linked to their accident.
How Fatigued Driving Endangers Others
In a study published in the Journal of Occupation and Environmental Medicine, researchers found drivers who were fatigued after work were among those more likely to get into accidents. This finding makes sense—it doesn’t take a PhD to understand that driving while tired is less safe. Here are the ways fatigue may affect truck drivers’ skills.
Reduced Cognitive Abilities
You’ve probably noticed you think slower when you’re tired, and the same thing happens to truckers. Their ability to evaluate situations and react appropriately is slower when they’re tired. Additionally, fatigue alters judgement to the point where a driver may not be able to realistically assess how tired they are. This can lead to drivers overestimating their ability to perform.
It’s also harder for truckers to keep their focus on the road when they are fatigued. Driving requires keen attention at all times. One lapse is all it takes to end up in a dangerous situation. Add in the aforementioned decreased judgement and ability to react, and it’s easy to see how inattention due to driver fatigue is uniquely dangerous.
When you don’t get enough sleep, sometimes your brain will force you to take a break by dropping into a microsleep. There’s no controlling when a microsleep might hit. It comes on suddenly and causes a period of unconsciousness that can range from less than a second to 15 seconds. Needless to say, drivers cannot respond to stimuli during a microsleep, and may “wake up” to a dangerous situation.
Another scary fact about microsleeps? They’re more likely to happen when a tired person spends long periods performing monotonous tasks. Interstate driving might be considered such, especially by someone who travels thousands of miles each year.
Hours of Service Regulations & Driver Health
In recognition of the challenges facing truck drivers, the federal government implemented a set of rules to restrict how many hours a driver can be expected to log on the road each day and week. The law lays out requirements for rest breaks during the day, an unbroken sleep period, and the maximum number of hours a trucker can spend on duty without a full rest break.
These hours of service rules protect truckers against extreme demands, but often, trucking companies will set timelines that aren’t feasible unless a driver bends the rules. When we’re investigating truck accident cases, we always look for hours of service violations. Truckers are required to keep a log of their working hours, and if we spot irregularities, it could be because their employer isn’t allotting enough time for them to complete routes safely.
When Fatigue Is One of Multiple Factors
Because of the various ways fatigue affects drivers, it may be a complication rather than a catalyst for an accident. For instance, consider a truck that loses the re-tread from one of its tires while on the interstate. It can be hard to keep control of a vehicle when this happens, but a driver who realizes what has happened and reacts the right way can safely come to a stop on the side of the road. On the contrary, a driver who either does not recognize why they are in trouble because of delayed processing time or one who doesn’t react soon enough is more likely to get in a serious accident—even if the first error wasn’t theirs.
This matters from a legal standpoint because it can complicate questions of liability. In the example above, we would want to investigate the tire manufacturer, the owner of the truck, and (if necessary) any outside contractors responsible for maintenance. Well-made and maintained tires don’t separate while a truck is on the highway. When a tire defect causes an accident, we therefore know there was negligence involved somewhere in the process of putting that truck on the road.
When fatigue is identified as a potential cause, we can also investigate the driver and their employer for hours of service violations or other unsafe driving habits. If one of these parties was also liable, that means we can file a claim against them as well. Especially with the severe damage truck accidents can cause, maximizing your compensation can be essential to being able to move forward with your life.
We Can Help You Identify Fatigue and Other Accident Causes
Our team at Cullan & Cullan knows how to investigate truck accidents to gather the evidence you need for your claim. Often, figuring out the factors behind an accident can be difficult and time-consuming work. We have a trained truck accident reconstructionist on our team who can make the process smoother and assemble pieces of evidence to tell the story of your accident. No matter what happened, we are dedicated to finding the underlying cause of your collision so we can help you file a claim for compensation.
Truck accidents are a tragedy that can affect you and your family for years to come. Especially when they’re caused by preventable measures, like driver fatigue, you may also feel angry or helpless. We understand this struggle, and we want to help you fight for justice and compensation if you’re in this position. Cullan & Cullan has recovered over $350 million for accident victims via negotiation and litigation. We are here to help you, too.
Call us at (816) 253-8606 or send us a messageto schedule your free consultation with one of our attorneys. We are here with the compassionate support you need during a truck accident claim.