Driver fatigue is a foreseeable risk for all drivers. But for drivers of commercial vehicles, it’s an occupational hazard which has been recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which must be managed. Fatigue is the result of physical or mental exertion that impairs performance. Driver fatigue may be due to a lack of adequate sleep, health issues, extended working hours, strenuous work or non-work activities or a combination of other factors.
In recent years there has been an increase in attention given to the fact that fatigued drivers are dangerous to themselves and others on the road. Studies have been conducted measuring drivers’ performance when they are tired. These studies have suggested that driving while fatigued impairs reaction times just as much as alcohol use. The risk involved with fatigued drivers is only amplified when introduced into the context of commercial trucking, because of the extremely large motor vehicles transporting a variety of materials.
The federal government is aware of the underlying safety issues involving commercial trucks and there are several specific rules in the FMCSR (Federal Motor Carrier Regulations) that address impaired drivers, hours of service, a driver and trucking companies, and managing truck schedules to conform with the Regulations. Every year truck crashes kill over 5,000 people and injure almost 150,000 more on the nation’s roads and highways. Large trucks are involved in multiple vehicle fatal crashes at twice the rate of passenger vehicles.
A driver of a commercial motor vehicle may drive a maximum of 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off duty. These hours are reduced for any driver who is carrying passengers to a maximum of ten hours after eight consecutive hours off duty. Under the current rule it permits fatigued drivers to spend 15 hours driving in a 24-hour period. There are new proposals that work/rest hours be based on a 24-hour circadian clock period instead of a 24-hour period. This would require longer rest periods for drivers.
The sleep-wake cycle is governed by both homeostatic and circadian factors. Homeostatic relates to the neurobiological need to sleep. The circadian pacemaker is an internal body clock that completes a cycle approximately every 24 hours. These processes create a predictable pattern of two sleeping peaks, which commonly occur about 12 hours after the mid-sleep period (in the afternoon for persons who sleep at night) and before the next consolidated sleep period (most commonly at night or early morning hours).
Studies have shown the most consistent factor influencing driver fatigue and alertness was time of day. Night driving from midnight to dawn was associated with the worst performance. The time of day was a much better predictor of decreased driving performance than hours of service. There is no quick fix or single solution to the fatigue problem. Sleep is a principle counter-measure to fatigue. All drivers need to insure that they obtain adequate sleep and they must be afforded an opportunity to obtain adequate sleep. If you need more information of this subject, contact Mike Crow, a lawyer in our Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Mike.Crow@beasleyallen.com. You can also go to www.FMCSA.gov; www.DOT.gov; or www.NHTSA.gov for more information.
Sources: www.FMCSA.gov, www.DOT.gov, and www.NHTSA.gov
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.