Truck drivers must get adequate sleep to safely operate their vehicle. Unfortunately, that does not always occur. Too many truckers are on the road while dangerously fatigued. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), fatigue is a causal factor in approximately “13 percent of commercial motor vehicle (CMV)” accidents reported nationwide.
Fatigued driving is negligent driving. Truck drivers and trucking companies have a legal duty to operate in a safe manner at all times. There are federal regulations in place to limit how much time a trucker can spend behind the wheel. In this article, our Syracuse truck accident lawyers highlight the dangers of fatigued driving and provide an overview of federal and state service hour regulations.
Fatigued Driving May Be As Dangerous As Drunk Driving
Driving while drowsy is a serious safety hazard. Many people do not properly appreciate the full extent of the danger. As explained by the National Sleep Foundation, operating a motor vehicle while overly tired or sleep-deprived can be every bit as dangerous as drunk driving. A motorist who has gone 24 hours without sleeping has reduced facilities that are the the equivalent of a driver with 0.10 blood alcohol concentration (BAC)—well over the legal limit in New York. Fatigued driving is associated with:
- Poor concentration;
- Impaired judgment;
- Reduced reaction time; and
- Falling asleep while driving.
Yet, despite the well-established danger, many people continue to drive while overly fatigued. One study cited by the National Sleep Foundation found that 50 percent of Americans admit to sometimes driving while drowsy. Additionally, a shocking 1 in 5 drivers have actually fallen asleep while behind the wheel at some point during their life. Federal data suggests that 71,000 are injured and 1,500 are killed in drowsy driving accidents each year. Though, as fatigued driving is underreported, the true figure may be even higher.
Federal & State Regulations Limit A Trucker’s Total Driving Time
On account of their immense size, tractor trailers pose a heightened safety risk to everyone else on the road. It is imperative that these large commercial vehicles are operated in the safest possible manner. Truck drivers must get enough rest before starting or resuming their journey. To help address the long-standing problem of drowsy driving, federal regulators have hours of service (HOS) regulations in place. Here is a brief overview of the federal rules:
- A truck driver must take a 30 minute rest break during each 8 hour period of driving;
- A truck driver is generally limited at 70 hours of driving time per week; and
- A truck driver must take at least one 34 hour (or greater) rest break during each week.
These service hour regulations were issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They apply to all truck drivers that operate across state lines. The New York State Department of Transportation also has similar state level rules in place. These are safety regulations that are designed to ensure that truckers actually get enough sleep to operate large commercial vehicles without posing an undue risk to the public.
Truckers Must Log Their Service Hours
Under federal and state regulations, commercial vehicle drivers have a legal responsibility to log their hours. A trucker’s log book should clearly state the number of hours they spent working (driving) and the number of hours that they spent resting. Trucking companies have a duty to make sure that their truck drivers are following the proper service hour regulations.
If you were involved in a serious commercial truck accident, your attorney will help you get access to all relevant documents, records, and information, including the log book. A truck driver who is not properly logging their hours or who is working while dangerously fatigued may be negligent. They may be legally liable for your accident.
Contact Our Syracuse, NY Attorneys For Immediate Legal Help
At Powers & Santola, LLP, our New York truck accident lawyers fight aggressively to protect the rights and interests of victims and their family members. Our law firm is here when you need the best results. You need full financial compensation for your injuries, including for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you or a loved one was hurt in a crash with a fatigued trucker, we are here to help. Call us now or contact us online for a free review of your personal injury case. From our offices in Syracuse, Albany, and Rochester, we represent truck accident victims throughout New York.