Jul 18

Commercial Truck Accidents – Driver Fatigue

Commercial Truck Accidents: Drivers Fatigue Just One Contributing Factor

Having our nose to the grindstone from Monday through Friday (and in some cases into the weekend too) can leave us drained and in need of some R ‘n R. But while too little sleep is unhealthy for everyone, it can become dangerous as far as commercial truck drivers are concerned.

Driving long hours without sufficient rest is never wise and, more often than not, impacts on people other than the drivers themselves. Over the years, we have dealt numerous cases where a road accident was caused by driver fatigue, leading to property damage, injury and all-too-often fatalities.

But cases taken by injured parties are not always clear cut. There are several issues that have to be kept in mind when assessing where you stand.

Driver Fatigue: A Real Genuine Threat?

So, is driver fatigue really such a big problem? The short answer is, yes. In fact, fatigue as a result of long hours behind the wheel has become synonymous with commercial truck drivers. For example, it’s not unusual for drivers to work 60 hours over seven consecutive days. Without sufficient time off between ‘shifts’, the risks of accidents increases dramatically and there are plenty of statistics that support that fact.

According to the Department of Transport (DOT), the number of large truck crash fatalities has increased by 18% since 2009. And in an open letter in December 2014, DOT secretary Anthony Foxx pointed out that nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year across the US, with driver fatigue one of the leading factors involved. IN 1998 Congress commissioned a study of 80 long-haul truck drivers in the US and Canada, and discovered that the average amount of sleep they had between journeys was just 5 hours, as published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Studies in the US are irregular, which means there is a lot more information to be ascertained, but data from other counties with more consistent crash reporting – like England (20% crashes), Australia (20%-30%) and Finland (30%) – suggest that a significant percentage of road accidents resulting in fatalities or serious injuries involve drivers fatigue.

Legislation and Liability

There can be many other contributors to a road accident, which existing Oregon and Federal statutes are designed to cover. The onus to adhere is as much on the motor carriers as the truck drivers themselves, but in some cases, the accident can be caused by other influences, like.

● schedule pressure prompting commercial truck drivers to drive aggressively
● driving in poor weather conditions
● poorly maintained vehicles suffering mechanical failure
● improperly secured loads
● inadequate space between vehicles
● speeding or generally reckless driving

In Oregon alone, the most recent data available (2012) shows there were 655 crashes involving a commercial vehicles deemed to have been caused by the driver, representing 52.5% of the total number of 1,248 truck crashes that year. Of them, 140 crashes were deemed to have been caused by the truck driver speeding, and 127 caused by an improper lane change. Just 11 were caused by the driver being fatigued or falling asleep. You read more about the latest figures in Summary of Oregon Truck Safety and Guide to 2014 Commercial Vehicle Safety Plan.

Oregon is a signee of the Federal Motor Carrier Service Authority Regulations, and a violation of them can be the basis for civil liability. You can check regulations out in full on their website, but three of the most significant areas are:

Overall Regulations
Hours of Service
Cargo Securement

Consult attorney Keith Dozier.

For more information on where you stand when involved in an accident involving a commercial semi-truck, you can contact Keith. He already has a wealth of experience in the area, having litigated in state and federal courts against trucking companies of all sizes.

Every case is different, so it’s best to discuss specifics. Simply call into our office in Lake Oswego, near Portland at 503-594-0333 or contact us toll-free on 855-899-0930. Our focus is always on providing you with excellent service, no matter the size or complexity of your case.

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