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In It for the Long Haul: Who’s to Blame for Fatigued Trucker Accidents?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Commercial truckers are often pushed to dangerous fatigue levels by trucking companies with overloaded delivery schedules and low-profit margins. To meet requirements and increase earnings, many truckers drive drowsy and fall asleep at the wheel.

Fatigued Truckers on the Road

Long-haul commercial truck drivers have a high risk of accidents caused by fatigue. Most truckers average less than five hours of sleep per night while on the road, and one in four drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel. Research shows that adults require an average of seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at full capacity. If sleep is limited to five hours per night for more than two consecutive nights, body and brain functions are significantly impaired. If sleep loss exceeds 24 hours, affects are similar to someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 %.

Accident statistics show that 65 percent of fatal truck crashes occur on long-haul runs 51 miles or more from the point of origin. Port trucking companies are guilty of putting hundreds of impaired truckers on long-haul runs, often dispatching drivers for shifts that last up to 20 hours a day, six days a week. In a four-year USA TODAY investigation, reports revealed that commercial trucks serving Los Angeles and Long Beach ports regularly operated without a required break 470 times per day. Involved trucks were in at least 189 crashes within one day of extended driving periods.

Driver fatigue is reported as a major factor in fatal truck crashes, In 2013, federal regulations were established for commercial vehicles to prevent trucking accidents caused by fatigued drivers.

  • Commercial truckers must take a 10-hour break every 14 hours.
  • Maximum driving hours are 70 hours per week. To reduce driver fatigue, the previous maximum hours of 82 hours per week were lowered.
  • A driver can only drive an 11-hour shift within a 24-hour period, and each shift must include at least one 30-minute break.
  • When a driver reaches the 70 hours per week limit, he/she must take a mandatory 34-hour resting period.
  • Resting periods must include two periods between 1 AM and 5 AM to ensure that truckers get at least two nights of adequate sleep per week.

Despite current regulations, many trucking companies and drivers ignore the rules. Many drivers admit to using sleeping pills and drugs like marijuana, cocaine, opioids, amphetamines, and ephedrine to help them stay awake behind the wheel.