Since July 1, 2013, commercial truck drivers have new Hours of Service (HOS) regulations with which they must comply when operating commercial motor vehicles. The stated purpose of the rule is set a maximum number of hours a driver is allowed to work on a continuing basis, to reduce the possibility of driver fatigue. Long daily and weekly hours are associated with an increased risk of crashes.
Drivers are not allowed to drive more than 11 hours following a 10-hour break. Neither can the driver be on duty more than 14 hours following that same 10-hour break, even if all that time doesn’t involve driving. Those and other new rules were implemented in an effort to keep drivers fresh and alert.
Lawyers in our firm have learned through litigation involving highway crashes that fatigue for truck drivers is a very serious problem. A 2006 Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study by Wylie and others found that fatigue leads to:
These problems caused by fatigue clearly have the potential to create hazards on the highways. When a person who is fatigued is behind the wheel of a tractor trailer rig, others on the road are put at risk of injury or death. It is no surprise that researchers found that driving while drowsy increased an individual’s crash risk by four to six times.
Lawyers in our firm have handled a number of cases where driver fatigue clearly resulted in accidents. Unfortunately, many trucking companies do not have the procedural safeguards in place that will reduce the likelihood of driver fatigue and prevent violations of the Federal on-duty hour regulations. In a recent case lawyers in our firm handled, we discovered that a trucking company had in excess of 100 fatigue-related Federal regulation violations. It was only a matter of time before this corporate culture of law-breaking would result in someone being seriously injured or killed. In fact, a death caused by driver fatigue did occur and we were able to successfully resolve the case for the family of the person who was killed.
Lawyers in our firm will continue to push for safer roadways by holding trucking companies accountable for violating laws designed to keep fatigued drivers off the roadway. If you have any further questions regarding this issue, contact Chris Glover, a lawyer in our Personal Injury/Product Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris.Glover@beasleyallen.com.
Source: Wylie, et al., 1997 and Klauer, et al., 2006
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