Semi-trucks carry all types of goods and merchandise across various distances. Some people might feel nervous when driving next to a large truck. The size of the vehicle alone can cause serious damage. Truck drivers usually drive with care when on the road, and they have to follow special rules and abide by trucking-specific regulations.
Despite these rules and regulations, some truckers end up with driver fatigue. The fatigue can cause driver error, and an accident may result. If you suffered injuries from a trucker’s negligence, you may qualify to pursue a legal claim that requests compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
You might have some questions when it comes to incidents of truck driver fatigue. A Boston truck accident attorney can provide answers and explain your legal options. Contact one today for answers to your specific questions, or read on for general information regarding Boston truck accidents caused by trucker fatigue.
Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
All commercial truck drivers (and most drivers in general) must face fatigue at some point. Some truckers have to travel long distances to make deliveries on time. The long work hours on the road can lead to drivers feeling tired. Heavy traffic around Boston, on roadways like Interstate 93, can result in more time behind the wheel.
During the long hours, someone might experience periods of inactivity. While the driver has to keep an eye on plenty of things, operating a truck can become monotonous. This lack of proper engagement for the brain can cause drowsiness.
Lack of sleep can also cause truck driver fatigue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 37 percent of workers in the United States sleep less than seven hours a day. Perhaps, the motorist did not get enough sleep the night before and feels the need to drive to maintain a demanding delivery schedule.
The driver may not have received enough rest for multiple days. In combination with extended hours on the road, a person faces a higher risk of becoming drowsy.
The time of day can also influence driver fatigue. The human body has a sleep and wake cycle, and the cycle lets your body know when to feel awake or tired. Many people still have an urge to go back to bed in the mornings. Truck drivers face the risk of fatigue if they begin the workday in the early hours of the morning.
Other causes of truck driver fatigue include illness, medication, and sleep disorders. Several drivers use caffeine and other methods to combat sluggishness.
Effects of Truck Driver Fatigue
Truck driver fatigue poses a serious problem due to the effects it has on the body. Frequently, a person might nod off behind the wheel and drift into another lane or could steer off the road and hit a pedestrian, pole, or tree. A fatigued driver may not notice when a car stops or passes nearby.
Cases of microsleeps can happen as well. A microsleep involves losing consciousness for a short time. An episode can last anywhere from less than a second to half a minute. Enough time can pass for changes on the road to occur. The truck driver might not react quickly or properly when waking from a microsleep.
Sleepiness may cause a truck driver to make poor decisions. Truckers might think that they have enough time to cross an intersection before the light goes from yellow to red, and impaired decision-making only increases the risk of a collision.
The National Safety Council compares over 20 hours of no sleep to a blood-alcohol concentration level of .08 percent. Similar to being under the influence, exhaustion impairs reaction times and awareness.
Some people experience tunnel vision when they have driver fatigue. With tunnel vision, you lose the sense of everything else around you. The field of view decreases in size, and a person cannot see objects in their peripheral vision clearly enough.
The focus remains on what is in front of the truck. Tunnel vision poses a risk since the truck driver remains unaware of the actions of other motorists.
Signs of Fatigue
Some of the effects of truck driver fatigue prove noticeable enough to make a person stop and rest. Nodding off and reacting slower to events constitute signs of fatigue. Another warning sign involves unknowingly slowing down or speeding up. In a drowsy state, the truck driver subconsciously lifts the foot off the pedal or presses down on it.
Yawning means the brain does not receive enough activity. If drivers constantly yawn, they may suffer from fatigue. Heavy eyes can indicate when a trucker needs to stop driving and rest more, as well.
Some truck drivers might feel a lack of patience. This reduced patience may result in poor decision-making. Additionally, a lazy turn can mean a case of fatigue. Truck drivers should remain aware and pull over if they show any of the warning signs of fatigued driving.
Do Truck Drivers Sleep in Their Trucks?
Some truck drivers drive overnight. You might have seen some tractors with sleeper cabs. When truckers must stay awry from home for a while, they rely on a sleeper cab to get rest and fight fatigue.
The cabin does not have much space, but it has enough room for a mattress, blanket, and pillows. Some of them might even have a cooler or coffee maker to provide drinks for a burst of energy.
Truck drivers rely on truck stops to park safely before going to sleep for the night. While the cabins help reduce driver fatigue, exhaustion can still affect a person if they don’t exercise proper care.
Truck Accident Statistics
On average, 3,921 fatal truck accidents occur every year. Around 104,000 people suffer from injuries after a collision. A small percentage of cases result from a truck driver experiencing fatigue. However, some police officers might not detect fatigue during the initial accident investigation.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that 34 percent of truck accidents occur between midnight and 9 a.m. Another 18 percent happened between 6 p.m. and midnight, as well. The early and late hours of the day can increase the chances of truck driver fatigue.
Most collisions occur between Monday and Friday. Most people drive on highways and other major roadways to get to and from work. Motorists face a higher chance of encountering large trucks on these days.
As a major city and transportation hub, many 18-wheelers pass through Boston every day. Interstate highways, like I-93, experience more truck collisions than small, local roads, and drowsiness causes a portion of these accidents.
Trucking Industry Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) determines the federal Hours of Service regulations trucking that companies must follow. The regulations help mitigate the risks of an accident due to truck driver fatigue. Since truck drivers carry property, they have an 11-hour driving limit. The limit prohibits them from driving more than 11 hours after they take time off from driving for 10 continuous hours.
On-duty truck drivers may take 30-minute breaks. They can take a break after they have driven for about eight hours. This short period often proves vital for the worker to remain fresh and fight off the effects of any fatigue.
After seven to eight straight days, trucking companies should not make their employees drive more than 60 to 70 hours. Workers can go on another shift after they have remained off duty for 34 hours.
Commercial drivers with a vehicle over 10,000 pounds have to follow Hours of Service regulations. If a person transports hazardous material, the trucker must follow these rules as well.
Truck drivers in Massachusetts need to follow federal regulations and any laws the state sets in place. Commercial truck drivers in Massachusetts must stay in the far right lane. One requirement for the lane restriction involves vehicles that weigh more than 2.5 tons. Additionally, the truck has to carry goods and wares.
Truck drivers can use the next lane to pass or in case of emergency. While they may intend to stay in the right lane, truck operators can quickly pull to the side when experiencing fatigue.
Penalties for Violations
In the past, truck drivers kept records of their hours in a physical logbook. Now, companies use an electronic logging device, which the FMCSA mandates. Electronic logging devices reduce the number of violations, and the tracking of Hours of Service and offenses has become more efficient as a result.
In some cases, trucking companies or their employees do not adhere to these regulations. Truck drivers might drive longer than they should per shift or come back to work earlier than permitted. The truck driver and even the carrier can face penalties for violating the Hours of Service regulations.
If a police officer catches a driver exceeding these limits, the truck stops all operations. Truckers cannot resume delivery until they obtain 10 or 34 hours of off-duty time. In addition, a truck driver could pay up to $16,000 in fines. The amount can go to $75,000 if the vehicle transports hazardous material.
The trucker or the company can receive a fine of up to $11,000 for falsifying records. If an accident occurs, a driver could face license suspension and/or jail time for going over the Hours of Service limits.
The Department of Transportation could catch a violation when a truck operator visits a weigh station. A police officer may discover the offense when the driver is on the road. Truckers and carriers may prefer to meet delivery schedules and deadlines rather than comply with the law. However, truckers need to manage their hours to avoid fatigue as well as financial and professional penalties.
Who Bears Responsibility for an Accident?
In most cases, the truck driver bears responsibility for an accident. Perhaps the trucker should have stopped driving when the effects of fatigue first set in. Truck drivers have a duty of care to other motorists, and truckers breach this duty of care when they drive while tired.
If the truck operator violated the Hours of Service, he or she may bear liability for the resulting damages. The trucker should not have gone over the required hours. Long shifts on the road can appear monotonous, and the driver has a higher chance of developing fatigue.
The trucking company can bear liability for a truck collision as well. You could file a lawsuit against the employer for negligent supervision of an exhausted worker. The company may have pressured or allowed truck drivers to drive even though they had already reached their maximum hours.
The Statute of Limitations
Boston residents have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit if they sustained injuries in a truck accident. You have three years after the date of the incident to establish a claim. Injured drivers and passengers can seek compensation for any damages.
If you lost a loved one in a Boston truck accident, you may qualify to pursue compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases have a deadline of three years after the death of the deceased victim by which to file. The date of death could differ from the date of the truck collision.
Make sure to speak with an attorney to see how the statute of limitations applies to your case. Your lawyer can make sure you start a lawsuit before the deadline passes.
Victims of fatigued truck driver accidents can recover economic and non-economic damages. Potential economic damages include healthcare costs, lost income, and vehicle damage. The settlement may also include current hospital bills and future therapy and medication expenses.
You might have had to miss work to recover from your injuries. You can get much of your lost income back in compensation from the liable party. Some severe injuries prevent people from returning to their current jobs. The court may consider future lost income, as well, depending on your specific circumstances.
Vehicle damage can range from minor to inoperable. You could spend a lot of money on repairs or have to replace your car. A settlement can include mechanic expenses, and you could receive reimbursement for any damaged property inside the vehicle.
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and loss of companionship. Non-economic damages do not have a standard value, so the judge may consider a variety of factors when determining how much compensation to award.
The amount an injured individual will receive from a truck accident will differ depending on the case’s specific facts and circumstances. Multiple factors go into the total settlement. You can ask a Boston personal injury lawyer for an estimate of what to expect, but no lawyer can promise you any specific amount of compensation. To learn more, reach out to a truck accident attorney near you today for a free claim evaluation!