Hours of Service are in place to protect the safety of the truck driver, as well as other drivers on the road. Trucking carrier fatigue and the accidents it can cause, pose serious liability risk to both truck driver and trucking company. It’s also a serious public safety risk. The statistics according to Department of Transportation are staggering. Accidents due to fatigue are responsible for 13% of all commercial motor vehicle related collisions! Hours of Service violations are serious. That’s why the DOT is enforcing better regulations for operators of Commercial Motor Vehicles (“CMVs”).
To achieve this, the DOT is imposing Hours of Service. This term is usually misunderstood in many ways. The Department of Transportation defines Hours of Service as follows:
“[…]Regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and govern the working hours of anyone operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in the United States.”
This writeup will answer the following questions regarding driver fatigue, specifically the fatigue experienced by truck drivers who drive long haul and commercial vehicles for a living.
- Who is the Department of Transportation?
- Why does trucking carrier fatigue pose a safety risk?
- What are the symptoms of truck driver fatigue?
- A Personal Injury perspective
Thus, this article will seek to provide a clear picture of both the safety risks and the preventative measures surrounding trucking carrier fatigue. It’s important to take note that trucking carrier fatigue is preventable. Truck drivers must follow the guidelines, rules, and regulations laid out in great detail by the FMCSA, the Department of Transportation, and the trucking carrier itself.
Who is the Department of Transportation?
To ensure public safety as well as the safety of those who are employed to commute in commercial vehicles, the Department of Transportation, or “DOT” governs every aspect of transportation on the roads in the United States. The “DOT” has provided a specific, thorough list of regulations that explicitly state the requirements that need be met to help trucking operators avoid carrier fatigue at all costs. The DOT lists everything from specific driving limits to mandatory rest breaks:
- Property carrying drivers: 11-hour driving limit; a driver may only drive a maximum of 11 consecutive hours, after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Passenger carrying drivers: 10-hour driving limit; a driver may only drive a maximum of 10 hours, after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
- Rest break requirements: a trucking operator may only drive if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last “off-duty” or rest period (must be at least 30 minutes).
While these regulations may seem excessive, they are in place for a reason and when violated, pose a serious public safety risk. Drivers who neglect these regulations set forth for them can be found liable in a Personal Injury lawsuit. They’re liable for causing serious bodily injury or participating in other injurious behavior due to ignoring trucking carrier fatigue.
Why does trucking carrier fatigue pose a safety risk for Florida truck drivers?
As with any person who attempts to operate a car, SUV, or truck while exhausted, there are serious and fatal consequences. Truck drivers, like all of us, are human and need proper rest, food, and exercise. Sometimes a truck driver finds themselves suffering fatigue, but continues their commute. This can be in an effort to achieve a company deadline. Regardless, they are at risk of becoming liable for a serious fatigue related accident.
If this occurs, as it so often does, the driver would most likely be found liable for the negligent behavior on the road. Suffering fatigue but continuing to operate dangerous machinery is not a “reasonable” thing to do. The “reasonable” action in this instance, would be to find a safe place to pull in and take the amount of rest, break required by the Department of Transportation.
What are the symptoms of truck driver fatigue?
Make no mistake, fatigue isn’t fatal in itself. Resting, eating healthy meals, and seeing a physician for a checkup can help eliminate fatigue. Making decisions while suffering from fatigue can be fatal. We often think we can “fully function” while tired, but we take a risk with our safety and the safety of others when attempting to run on little or no sleep. It’s not only truck drivers who need be cautious and cease operating their truck while suffering from fatigue, but every licensed driver out on the road whether in a car, SUV, or on a motorcycle.
Mayo Clinic, a leader healthcare, defines “fatigue” as:
“[…]It’s a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time and reduces your energy, motivation and concentration. Fatigue at this level impacts your emotional and psychological well-being, too.”
Some of the most serious symptoms of fatigue as laid out by Mayo Clinic are as follows:
- Lack of sleep: fatigue itself is exhaustion beyond the point of simply feeling “tired”.
- Certain medications can cause fatigue: always speak with a medical professional before driving on a new medication.
- Lack of physical activity: with truck driving, remaining behind the wheel for long hours can become monotonous. Therefore, it can induce levels of exhaustion that become dangerous. Truck drivers must remember to get enough physical activity, even just a short walk or stretching during off-duty hours.
- Unhealthy eating habits: this cause of fatigue is one of the most serious. Often, truck operators don’t make time to eat healthy, regular meals. Eating junk food just because it’s convenient causes serious health problems. Diabetes, heart disease, and obesity are a few common illnesses truck drivers suffer unnecessarily. Truck drivers must always take care to eat nutritiously to avoid developing preventable health problems in the future.
Personal Injury perspective
For further reading, the Law Resource takes another look inside liability with Exploring Liability in Personal Injury Law. In the article we provide our readers even more insight from a Board Certified Personal Injury lawyer whose trucking accident verdicts range in the multi-millions of dollars.