When truck drivers in Idaho and around the country get behind the wheel after not sleeping for 24 hours, they are as impaired as a motorist who has a blood alcohol concentration far higher than the legal limit. Regulations have been introduced to prevent this from happening, but catastrophic semi-tractor trailer accidents involving dangerously fatigued truck drivers remain worryingly common.
An underreported problem
Many road safety experts claim that truck driver fatigue is an underreported problem, and the National Transportation Safety Board shares this view. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Accident Reporting System, fatigue is a contributing factor in less than 10% of deadly commercial vehicle accidents. The NTSB believes that the true figure could be as high as 40%. The agency came to this conclusion after studying 182 fatal semi-tractor trailer accidents.
Hours of service regulations
To prevent fatigue-related truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration limits the length of truck driver shifts. Its hours of service regulations require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break after driving for eight hours, and the rules mandate at least 10 hours of rest after truck drivers complete shifts that can be no longer than 14 hours and include no more than 11 hours of driving. When personal injury lawsuits are filed in connection with truck accidents that could have been caused by fatigue, hours of service records, which are logged by electronic devices, may provide crucial evidence.
A danger to all road users
Fatigued truck drivers cannot respond quickly in emergency situations, which makes them a great danger to all other road users. To reduce your chances of being killed or seriously injured in a fatigue-related truck accident, you should give tractor-trailers a wide berth and be on the lookout for signs of drowsiness like sudden braking, slowing down and then speeding up and weaving between lanes.