The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has hours of service regulations in place to help prevent driver fatigue, a leading contributing factor to truck accidents. Under current regulations, truck drivers are allowed to drive 11 hours a day. This hours-of-service time limit is likely too liberal, as driver fatigue remains a pervasive problem. Even so, the U.S. Department of Transportation is considering serious changes to these conditions, as reported in an article by Insurance Journal.
What Are the Current Hours of Service Regulations?
Hours of service rules for property-carrying drivers are summarized as follows by the FMCSA:
- 11-hour driving limit: Drivers are allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off duty.
- 14-hour limit: A driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty (following ten consecutive off-duty hours).
- Rest breaks: Drivers must take a 30-minute rest break when eight hours on duty have passed since the last off-duty or rest period.
- 60/70-hour limit: Drivers may not drive after 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days. They are required to take 34 or more consecutive off-duty hours before restarting a seven or eight consecutive day period.
How Do the Current Regulations Result in Driver Fatigue?
Several links between current hours of service regulations and driver fatigue were stated in a recent study published by the NCBI. Researchers provided a “Summary of Studies on Hours of Service, Fatigue, and Crash Risk” that included the following findings from different studies:
- Driving in excess of eight hours increases the crash risk by 1.8 times.
- Fatigue was cited as the cause in 31% of the sample.
- A strong association exists between sleepiness and the crash rate.
- 7-13% of crashes are associated with sleep shortage.
- The 34-hour restart is less effective for drivers who work at night and sleep during the day.
- Fatigue is affected by circadian rhythms and the duration of the drive.
- 5% of fatal crashes involved a drowsy driver.
What Is the Risk to Motorists When Truck Drivers Are Fatigued?
Driver fatigue has been found to be a leading factor in large truck accidents. A fully-loaded tractor trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds or more, while the average passenger vehicle weighs 3,000 pounds. When a fatigued truck driver causes a collision with a passenger vehicle, occupants of the passenger vehicle are likely to suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries.
A total of 4,136 people died in truck accidents in 2018, as reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Of the people who died, 67% were passenger vehicle occupants, 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists, and only 16% were occupants of large commercial trucks.
Holding Drivers and Trucking Companies Accountable
Driver fatigue is a serious danger to drivers, motorcyclists, and even pedestrians. If a driver violates federal trucking regulations and falls asleep at the wheel, a variety of catastrophic accidents can occur, such as jackknifes, rollovers, head-on collisions, and more. If you have the misfortune of being involved in a truck accident due to driver fatigue, please contact the Tenge Law Firm, LLC to secure the aid of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Our highly-knowledgeable team of attorneys has handled multiple truck accident claims throughout Colorado and has a thorough knowledge of insurance adjusters’ underhanded tactics. We will advocate on the maximum compensation to ensure you have a full chance of recovery after a debilitating injury. Contact us at (303) 665-2929 to schedule a free consultation with no obligation.