Of all the causes of truck collisions, one of the most preventable gets the least press: driver fatigue; in other words tired truckers. Although the law both limits the maximum number of hours that a driver is supposed to drive and prohibits driving if they are “impaired through fatigue.” the fact is that more and more big rig drivers are taking to the highways without enough sleep. There are several reasons for this, including the relaxed industry regulation that has resulted in less-experienced truck drivers on the road.
Before 2004, the law allowed truckers to drive no more than 10 hours consecutively. Statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) showed that the number of fatigue related crashes jumped dramatically after eight hours of driving and continued to increase through the tenth hour allowed. Despite this evidence, the regulations were changed in 2004 and truck drivers are now allowed to drive up to 11 hours consecutively, meaning that there are more tired truckers on the road than ever before.
As you might guess, the number of fatalities caused by large trucks has increased, with fatigue cited as a factor in more accidents. Interestingly, the FMCSA’s failure to consider the obvious (more time driving = more driver fatigue) has been cited by at least the courts that are considering whether these regulations should he allowed to continue. Deregulation of the industry has resulted in increased competition and pressure on truck drivers to complete their routes as quickly as possible like the old adage, “time is money”. Finally, changes in the ways that goods carried by trucks are distributed, such as the increased use of “just in time” delivery, have resulted in tighter deadlines for truck drivers than was the case in the past.
Taken together, all of these factors mean that the pressure on truck drivers to ignore the law and complete their deliveries on-time or even ahead of schedule, even if they are too tired to drive safely, will only increase! Actual resolution of legal issues depends upon many factors, including variations of facts and state laws.