How Big of a Problem Is Driver Fatigue in Truck Accident Cases?

Commercial trucks are visible on just about every major thoroughfare in Ohio. They transport goods and materials from one municipality to another, and thousands of trucks cross the state taking goods from the East Coast to the West Coast or in and out of Michigan. These big vehicles tend to make other drivers in traffic a bit nervous, and with good reason.

When a passenger vehicle collides with a commercial truck, catastrophic property damage and fatal injuries tend to occur. Oftentimes, something that a driver did wrong is the underlying cause of a crash. For example, fatigued driving is a serious issue in the commercial transportation industry. How likely is fatigue to play a role in a semi-truck collision?

Despite numerous rules, fatigue is a major safety issue

The possibility of employers forcing workers to drive when it would not be safe for them to do so has led to the creation of specific traffic laws aimed at preventing fatigued driving when in control of a semi-truck or other commercial vehicles. The federal Hours of Service rules impose a maximum number of hours a driver can be on the road each day and will also limit how many hours they can drive in a seven or eight-day period. Commercial transportation companies now typically need to prove their adherence to those rules by installing electronic logging devices (ELDs) that show how long someone has been on the road. Despite the upgraded tracking system and strict federal rules imposed, fatigue continues to be a major safety issue.

Why does fatigue still cause crashes?

Simply having a certain number of hours between shifts does not automatically ensure that a driver will get adequate rest. Truck drivers may still have responsibilities at their homes to take care of or a large commute from where they end their shift to where they rest. If they sleep in a special sleeper cab in the vehicle, nearby traffic could affect how deep that sleep becomes. Additionally, sleep apnea is a common health concern among commercial drivers that may diminish how restful their sleep is even if they try to get eight hours of sleep each night. Drivers that have gone too long without sufficient rest have longer reaction times, compromised decision-making ability, a harder time staying focused and an elevated risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

Anyone who is involved in a commercial crash and believes fatigue may have played a role in the wreck should communicate that concern not only to any police officers putting together a crash report but possibly also to a lawyer who can help them push for justice and appropriate compensation. Understanding the common risk factors for commercial crashes and the rules that regulate the industry can be a good starting point for those evaluating whether they have grounds to pursue legal action.