Truck Driver Fatigue
Each year, more than 750 people die and another 20,000 are injured in truck accidents due to driver fatigue. Long hauls can be monotonous journeys even for the most experienced drivers. That makes paying extra attention to the rules of the road a necessity for operators of tractor-trailers and big rigs, but unfortunately that is not always the case. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were 3,491 large truck crashes in Michigan in 2009. Of that number, over 60 people died and another 876 were injured.
Several factors may contribute to driver fatigue. Sometimes commercial vehicle drivers may fail to recognize that they are tired. Other times, drivers may disobey federal regulations that require them to take specific rest periods; they may even falsify logbooks to show that they rested when they actually kept driving. Sadly, this illegal behavior is sometimes the result of unrealistic pressure placed on truck drivers from their employers, who may receive extra profits if their cargo arrives early. Other times, the drivers are just plain negligent.
Truck Driver Fatigue and Your Injuries
The sheer size difference between tractor-trailers and other vehicles makes them dangerous neighbors on the roads. When truck drivers get tired, the results can be disastrous for others, leading to death or serious brain injuries, back injuries, broken bones, and other catastrophic damage that can permanently alter the course of a victim’s life.
As a rule, truck shifts are long. Being on the road for long periods of time strains the driver’s eyes and can lead to drowsiness, headaches, restlessness, boredom, irritability, and loss of concentration. Many drivers try to use coffee or other energy drinks to perk themselves up, which can actually have a negative effect on their bodies, lowering their response times and their ability to control the truck, especially at high speeds. Other medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, may also be a contributing factor in truck accidents caused by driver fatigue.
Recognizing those dangers, the FMCSA requires truck drivers and truck companies to meet detailed Hours of Service requirements (Part 395 of the FMCSA Rules and Regulations). These regulations set forth exactly how many hours a driver must rest between shifts on a daily basis as well as for those on 7- or 8-day shifts. For drivers with medical disorders like sleep apnea, employers are required to get certifications from a doctor that the driver is cleared to operate the motor vehicle; otherwise, they run the risk of being prosecuted for negligence.
Truck drivers are required to maintain log books that document each and every hour of their trips. The log books are an important historical record that can be a valuable piece of evidence in a lawsuit. Here are some important things to know about logbooks:
- There should be only one original copy. Drivers have been known to keep multiple log books in their rigs and then give investigators a fake copy when accidents happen.
- Companies do not have to keep log books forever. If you’ve been in an accident, it’s important to speak with an attorney who can retrieve the potential evidence before it is thrown away.
- There are ways to prove that a log book has been doctored. Receipts for food, lodging and diesel fuel, along with cargo pickup and delivery orders, can show the inconsistencies in the recordkeeping. GPS data is another valuable tool.
Harmed in a Michigan Truck Accident? We Can Help
The tractor-trailer wreck lawyers at Michigan Injury Lawyers have extensive experience evaluating truck accident claims and can advise you of potential defendants and your legal options if you’ve been injured in a crash. We are dedicated to helping you obtain fair compensation for your injuries.
Our Michigan truck accident attorneys can be reached at (888) 454-0801 or contact us online for a free evaluation of your claim. If there is no recovery in your case, there is no fee for our services.