Truck driver fatigue can have effects that are similar to driving while under the influence of alcohol. Driver fatigue contributes to serious accidents because drowsiness causes impaired judgment, slowed response times, and lapses in attention and focus. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) places fatigue in the top 10 leading factors for large truck collisions. Tired truckers are more likely to lose control of the vehicle, lack alertness, and may fall asleep entirely while behind the wheel.
There are many factors that can contribute to driver fatigue. Generally, drowsiness happens when you haven’t gotten a proper amount of sleep. Furthermore, the act of driving in itself, especially on a straight highway, can get repetitive. Because of this, it can have a lulling effect that is worsened from a lack of sleep. As a truck accident lawyer from Schehr Law, PLLC explains, other contributing factors for truck accidents include:
- Truckers who drive during normal sleeping hours. The FMCSA states that our body naturally gets tired at specific times of the day, including 12 a.m. to 6 a.m., and between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
- Truckers who take certain medications. A side effect of many over-the-counter medications is drowsiness, and often come with a warning label to not operate heavy machinery after taking a dose.
- Truckers who are being overworked. The trucking field can come along with pressures to meet deadlines and may motivate a trucker to drive for longer periods of time than is safe to do.
- Truckers who have untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, may be at an increased likelihood of falling asleep while driving.
When a trucker is fatigued, it can hinder their ability to operate the truck. Operating these vast vehicles takes strict attention and training. Combined with the extra size and weight of the truck, fatigue can cause crashes due to drifting off the road, swaying between lanes, or acceleration from unconscious pressure on the gas pedal. Truckers who fall asleep at the wheel may drive their vehicles off the road, causing a crash between another vehicle, concrete median, tree, or building. Suddenly jerking awake can also cause a crash if the driver overcorrects the steering wheel rapidly, causing a spin or rollover.
So who is at-fault for a trucker being fatigued and causing an accident? You may immediately assume the driver, which is the obvious party to blame. But the trucker’s boss may have been pressuring them to get to a destination in an unreasonable time frame, which encouraged the trucker to drive for longer durations than is allowed by law. It is also possible that the loading crew overstocked the truck, making it more difficult to maneuver. Or the owner of the truck had failed to perform routine inspections and a part malfunctioned while in motion. Ultimately, there are more people than just the trucker who could have contributed to the accident happening.
Trucker fatigue is a serious issue that is more prevalent than you may realize. This factor contributes to thousands of people being injured each year, and hundreds of fatalities. Because drowsiness is challenging to measure, these estimates are probably underestimated or underreported.