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Trucker Fatigue And Fatal Collisions

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is primarily responsible for regulating the trucking industry. Created in 2000, this agency has struggled to combat trucker fatigue. The sad reality is that many truck drivers are on the road for far too long. They face pressure from their employers to get goods to their destination as fast as possible, or they are trying to return to their families. Public safety is compromised as a result.

At Salango Law, we help family members when they lose a loved one to a trucking accident. This is a very emotional time. Many families have questions but don’t know where to turn. Our law firm is here for you. Contact us today to speak with a West Virginia truck accident lawyer for more information.

How Many Accidents Are Caused By Fatigue?

The FMCSA has performed many studies looking at what contributes to accidents over the years. They have found that fatigue is a contributing factor in about 1 out of 8 truck accidents. This is a very high number. Of course, other factors might contribute as well, such as poor weather, unfamiliar surroundings, or drug/alcohol use. But being too tired is obviously dangerous.

How Does Fatigue Lead To Fatal West Virginia Truck Accidents?

A tired trucker is a risk to everyone else on the road. Being tired causes many problems:

  • Delayed reflexes. A trucker might delay pumping the brakes or swerve out of the way. Consequently, they crash into other motorists, often at very high speeds.
  • Falling asleep. Some truckers will nod off behind the wheel, which can cause them to drift into oncoming traffic or ride over a vehicle stopped in front of it.
  • Poor judgment. People who are tired often take many risks behind the wheel, such as speeding. A drowsy driver might race to make a delivery so he can get to sleep sooner.
  • Impaired information processing. A trucker might be unable to understand what is happening around him. For example, traffic might stop on the highway due to construction. It might take several seconds before a trucker comprehends that he needs to stop.
  • Anger. Some people who are tired become angry and engage in aggressive actions. A trucker might be more likely to experience road rage and deliberately endanger public safety.

Some truckers compound the problem by taking NoDoz or drinking a lot of coffee. Unfortunately, they tend to experience a “crash” after the temporary boost of energy wears off. In other words, they become even more tired. Only a good night’s sleep can help a trucker feel refreshed.

Has The Government Tried To Reduce Fatigued Driving?

Yes. The FMCSA has passed detailed “hours of service” regulations. These regulations set the ceiling for the number of hours a trucker can work and/or drive. For example, if a trucker delivers goods (as opposed to people), they must abide by the following:

  • Can only drive a maximum of 11 hours in a day following 10 straight hours off duty.
  • Cannot drive past the 14th consecutive hour on duty after 10 consecutive hours off.
  • Must take a half-hour break after driving for 8 hours.
  • Cannot drive more than 60/70 hours in 7/8 straight days. The clock only restarts after 34 or more consecutive hours off.

The trucking industry is constantly trying to loosen these regulations, however. And they have succeeded somewhat. For example, new regulations allow a trucker caught in traffic to count that downtime as a rest break. There are also exceptions for so-called “short-haul” drivers. We wouldn’t be surprised if fatal accidents increase due to recent changes.

Is A Drowsy Trucker Responsible For My Loved One’s Accident?

Quite possibly. We’d like to learn a little more about the collision.

If the trucker caused the crash, then we will investigate further. The truck driver might have made some error which qualifies as negligence. We can bring a wrongful death lawsuit for the crash based on negligence.

Is Drowsy Driving A Form Of Negligence?

Yes. It is unreasonable for someone who is too tired to get behind the wheel of a big rig. We sensibly expect people to be rested if they are going to drive. When someone negligently causes a death, family members can seek compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.

How Do You Prove A Trucker Was Drowsy?

Our experienced attorneys rely on many pieces of evidence. For one, the trucker might admit that he was driving too long in violation of federal hours of service regulations. This sometimes happens. If you bring a lawsuit, your attorney gets to ask questions under oath in a deposition, and a trucker can face penalties for lying. Some truck drivers just flat-out admit they were driving too long or were tired.

There are other ways to find out how long a truck was in motion. Many modern trucks are outfitted with electronic logging devices. These devices record certain information, like black boxes in airplanes. These electronic devices are hard to tamper with and are more accurate than paper logs. We can check them to see how long the trucker was driving in the lead-up to your loved one’s crash.

We could also find proof, like many coffee cups in the cab or stimulants people commonly use to stay awake. If you were at the accident scene, you might have seen the trucker yawning after the crash.

Can I Sue If The Trucker Wasn’t Drowsy?

Yes. Drowsy driving is only one form of negligence. There are others. Being on illegal stimulants is itself a form of negligence, regardless of the driver’s fatigue. Let an attorney fully investigate the fatal truck accident to determine the cause.

Who Else Can I Sue For A Fatal Truck Accident?

You might also be able to sue the trucker’s employer. Some trucking companies put pressure on their drivers to drive over the federal limits. This type of pressure can make trucking companies legally responsible for a crash.

In West Virginia, employers are often automatically on the hook when an employee negligently hurts someone while working. At Salango Law, we review all possible defendants.

Our West Virginia Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help

Although the federal government regulates the trucking industry, accident victims have a role to play, too. A lawsuit against a trucking company or driver can force changes in the industry. If you lost a loved one in a crash, give Salango Law a call at (304) 342-0512 or connect online. We offer free consultations for anyone who has questions about a possible truck accident claim.