Dangers of Truck Driving Fatigue

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Posted By | September 11, 2023 | Personal Injury,Truck Accidents

When a collision occurs between a fully loaded 18-wheeler truck weighing anywhere between 18,000-48,000 pounds and a 4,000-pound personal vehicle, the driver and passengers in the smaller, lighter vehicle are far more likely to sustain serious or catastrophic injuries. Sadly, fatalities in truck accidents are also far more common in the smaller vehicles involved. An estimated 30-40% of truck accidents occur due to driver fatigue. Despite regulations limiting the number of hours truck drivers can spend on the road, injuries in truck crashes increased by 47% in the last decade.

Truck Accident Statistics

Commercial trucks are large, unwieldy, and have extended blind spots compared to smaller vehicles. When drivers spend many hours on the road they’re more likely to become distracted or drowsy compared to average drivers, making it more difficult to manage a large commercial truck. Large-truck involvement in accidents has resulted in some startling statistics including the following:

  • There were 117,300 large truck crashes in 2021, increasing by 12% from 2020
  • 72% of truck accident deaths are the occupants of other vehicles compared to truck driver deaths (17%) and pedestrian/cyclist deaths (11%)
  • Over 54% of fatal truck accident deaths occur in urban areas and 45.7% occur in rural regions
  • 73% of truck accidents occur on two-lane roads, while 26% occur on interstate highways
  • More truck accidents happen during daylight hours (63.54%) compared to nighttime hours (36.46%)

Driver distraction, intoxicated driving, and poor weather conditions all contribute to truck accident statistics, but truck driver fatigue is the largest recognized contributing factor.

Truck Driver’s Hours of Service Regulations

Long-haul truck drivers must follow legal regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for the number of hours they can drive and how often they must stop for breaks. The following regulation serve to limit fatigued driving and minimize the risk of accidents:

  • Drivers may only drive for 11 hours after having 10 hours off-duty during a 24-hour time frame
  • Freight drivers may not be actively on-duty for more than 14-hours in a day, including breaks and delays
  • Drivers must take a 30-minute break after every 8 hours of driving
  • Drivers may not drive more than 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days and may only return to duty after a 34-hour time-off period

Some truck drivers still fill out service-hour logs by hand to track their driving hours but the vast majority of trucking companies now monitor driving hours through electronic monitoring devices inside the cab of the truck. Some of these devices also register critical information before and during an accident that can help determine driver liability or truck equipment failure.

Common Injuries in Truck Accidents

Driver fatigue causes many types of truck accidents including T-bone accidents, jacknife accidents, sideswipes, and wide-turn accidents as well as head-on collisions and rear-end collisions. The types of injuries commonly sustained by truck accident victims include:

  • Head injuries and traumatic brain injuries
  • Bone fractures of the limbs, ribs, hips, and pelvis
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Crush injuries with internal organ damage
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Burns
  • Lacerations and bruises
  • Disfigurement
  • Road rash
  • Traumatic amputations
  • Soft tissue injuries such as torn ligaments and strains

If these injuries occur to a driver and/or passengers in a private vehicle due to an accident with a truck, an investigation of the driver’s electronic monitoring device may reveal a high likelihood of fatigued driving, leaving the driver liable for the victim’s damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In some cases, the truck driver bears personal liability for the accident, but at other times, the trucking company may be at fault for failing to enforce driving limits. It often requires a thorough investigation by a skilled McKinney truck accident attorney to determine liability in an accident.