Driver Fatigue is a Huge Contributor to Trucking Accidents
Due to their immense size, commercial trucks create inherent risks on our roadways. When a truck accident does occur, the consequences can be devastating. According to data from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), highway accidents killed 35,092 people in 2015. Approximately 11 percent of those deaths involved large commercial trucks. This figure is alarming, as semi-trucks were only involved in 3.8 percent of all highway accidents. The data is clear: trucking accidents are especially dangerous.
Because of the danger, trucking companies are required to operate their fleet with the highest level of safety in mind. Many state and federal safety regulations are in place to improve highway safety and decrease trucking accidents. Yet, far too often, the big trucking companies still put profits over safety. One of the biggest examples of this is companies encouraging drivers to work overly-aggressive schedules. The result is sleep-deprived truckers being behind the wheel.
What We Know About the Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
Fatigue dramatically reduces performance for all drivers. But it is an especially concerning problem for truck drivers, since truckers operate dangerous vehicles on tight schedules. The research indicates that fatigue has some serious effects, including:
- Reducing reaction time;
- Impairing judgment;
- Impairing vision;
- Decreasing overall performance;
- Adversely affecting information processing; and
- Reducing short-term memory.
Additionally, there is also the major risk that a driver will fall asleep behind the wheel. There is no doubt that fatigue significantly increases the risk of an accident. This is not merely a theoretical issue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducted an in-depth analysis of the causation of truck accidents. The FMCSA determined that driver fatigue is a factor in as many as 15 percent of all serious truck accidents and 30 percent of all fatal truck accidents. To put these figures into perspective, FMCSA investigators estimate that 2 percent of truckers are dangerously fatigued at any moment. This means that driver fatigue increases the risk of a major accident by an exponential amount.
Federal Safety Regulations are In Place to Reduce Fatigued Driving
All trucking companies that operate in Connecticut are legally required to follow the FMCSA’s truck safety regulations. In recent years, the FMCSA has promulgated new rules to address the issue of fatigued drivers. The agency issued the following three fatigue-related safety regulations:
- Truckers must take a 30-minute break at least once per eight-hour shift;
- Truckers may only drive a maximum of 70 hours in a week; and
- Truckers must take at least one uninterrupted 34-hour break from driving each week.
Trucking companies also have a legal obligation to only put safe, capable drivers behind the wheel of their vehicles. If a company puts a fatigued truck driver on the road, and an accident occurs as a result, that company may be liable for any resulting damages.