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Why Truck Driver Fatigue Is a Threat to Public Safety

Posted On May 27, 2016 In Truck Accidents

Truck driver fatigue is a contributor to accidentsIn 2014, comedian Tracy Morgan’s vehicle was struck by a Wal-Mart truck driver on the New Jersey turnpike. Morgan suffered a severe brain injury, and his friend and fellow comedian James McNair died. An investigation discovered the Wal-Mart driver had been awake for 28 hours and was speeding. The accident is a reminder that truck driver fatigue has become a major public safety issue.

How dangerous is driving without sleep? Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine discovered similarities between drowsy and drunk driving. Additional research carried out by researchers with the Queensland University of Technology in Australia argued being awake for 20 hours has comparable effects to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .1, more than the .08 legal limit. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drivers with BACs of .1 experience delayed reaction times, slowed thinking and an impaired ability to maintain lane position and braking.

Hours of service rules exist that are supposed to keep commercial truckers from driving for long periods of time without rest. However, some trucking companies may ask drivers to falsify hours of service logs. Accident investigations and lawsuits have found drivers also sometimes ignore these rules.

How Hours of Service Rules Prevent Drowsy Driving

Before being reversed by Congress as part of the 2015 budget deal, hours of service regulations required drivers to rest for 34 hours upon hitting 60 or 70 hours of driving within a week.

Current hours of service rules prohibit commercial semi-truck drivers from driving more than 11 hours straight. Despite these rules, some truckers continue to drive well beyond the current caps.

In 2014, an anonymous whistleblower claimed his trucking company required him to operate for 19 hours straight! Other crashes have occurred where it was discovered the driver had falsified their hours of service log books (these books are reviewed during inspections). In early 2014, a trucker killed an Illinois tollway worker and catastrophically injured a state trooper after working for 36 hours straight.

Companies may turn a blind eye to falsified log books to make greater profits. If prior studies on drowsy and drunk driving are correct, these truckers are operating in a condition similar to being impaired by alcohol!

As the former owner of a trucking company, attorney Mike Love has witnessed many companies in the industry ignore regulations that exist to keep the public safe. Falsifying hours of service logs is just one of several ways companies put profits before public safety. Future blog posts will discuss how some commercial truckers conceal evidence of dangerous health conditions like sleep apnea.

The personal injury attorneys at Mike Love & Associates, LLC can help motorists who have been injured by negligent commercial carriers.

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