There are a number of reasons why commercial tractor-trailers have been known to collide with another vehicle or strike a bicyclist, pedestrian, or motorcycle driver. One of the most critical and common causes of truck accidents is driver fatigue.
In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducts special studies of driver fatigue because it has been identified as a primary cause of many collisions. This agency is also keenly aware that hours-of-service regulations that attempt to reduce driver fatigue are highly controversial and regularly violated.
The big questions involving driver fatigue when investigating a truck accident lawsuit involving personal injury are complex, but can generally be drilled down to:
As we have noted, federal regulations place limits on the number of hours a truck driver can spend behind the wheel and on the road in a given time period. Unfortunately, it’s quite common for truck drivers to bend these rules in an attempt to meet unreasonable delivery deadlines—and very often they are under pressure from supervisors or commercial truck operation staff to do “whatever it takes” in order to make a delivery.
In fact, driver fatigue may be a factor in as many as 35 to 40 percent of all truck accidents. When truck drivers work long hours, face impossible deadlines, but have to abide by strict schedules governing their work, the pressure to keep driving can cause fatigue to seriously impair a commercial truck driver’s judgment.
When we talk about “fatigue,” we are referring to a physical state in which lack of sleep, extreme tiredness, or exhaustion — or a combination of all of the above — causes a driver to be impaired behind the wheel of a big rig. Not getting enough sleep combined with the physical stresses of loading and unloading heavy cargo can quickly take its toll on even the heartiest and healthiest of truck drivers. It is important to keep in mind that fatigue can even impair a driver’s ability to recognize how tired they are in the first place.
When a commercial truck driver is fatigued in this manner, it is easy for them to nod off, fall asleep, or simply make a major error in judgment. This means that the driver of a 30,000-pound commercial tractor-trailer traveling at 70 miles per hour can quickly turn a highway or public road into a very dangerous place for other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, and threaten public safety.
Truck drivers are historically low-paid employees for the hours they put in. Commercial truck drivers commonly drive more than 12 hours at a stretch and, with loading and unloading, can easily put in 16 to 18 continuous hours of work. This wears a driver down and leads not only to more accidents but also accidents that cause more physical harm and property damage and sometimes wrongful death.
Despite vocal opposition from the commercial trucking industry, the federal government has intervened over the years to change the rules and duty hours for truck drivers. According to current federal laws:
These rules, which are also governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, also require a mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours of driving, and a 60-70 hour duty limit within a week of work (seven days).
These rules were clearly established to target and reduce truck driver fatigue and, therefore, reduce the number of truck accidents. However, truck drivers and the commercial trucking operators they work for don’t always follow these rules.
Truck drivers are required to maintain a logbook of their driving hours. In the event of an accident, these driving logs have often been known to have been falsified or even disappear — robbing victims of an accurate count of the number of hours a truck driver spent on the job prior to an accident.
Determining why truck drivers succumb to driver fatigue is fairly simple and largely based in economics. They include:
The Houston truck accident attorneys at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. who work with truck accidents and lawsuits take action immediately to investigate whether a truck involved in an accident was impaired due to driver fatigue, substance abuse, or other factors. Our investigations into driver fatigue are just one part of a multi-faceted approach to truck accident lawsuits that include medical assessments, reviews of maintenance and repair records, perceived safety issues, and any other factors that may have caused a truck driver to harm another person in a severe truck collision.
Because these factors are complex, measuring liability can be challenging in cases involving driver fatigue. That’s why we make the effort to understand the effects that truck driver fatigue can have on the human body and to pursue fair compensation when you’ve been injured in a commercial trucking accident.
We have extensive experience representing people injured in truck accidents and know how to find the evidence and make the arguments to support your case. Find out more about how our attorneys can help you in the wake of your commercial truck accident by calling us at or contacting us online. We offer a free consultation and charge no fees unless we recover compensation for your injuries.