drowsy truck driver yawning

Many factors play a role in truck accidents, but one of the most common causes is fatigued or drowsy driving. Truck drivers work long hours and must meet tight delivery deadlines. To make these deadlines, truck drivers will sometimes work longer than they are legally permitted to.

When truck drivers exceed their hours-of-service limits, they run the chance of becoming fatigued and causing a devastating accident.

Truck accidents involving drowsy drivers can also be challenging to investigate. While it might seem obvious who the at-fault party is, truck accidents are incredibly complex and often involve multiple liable parties. Because of this, it is highly advisable to work with a seasoned truck accident attorney.

At Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., our dedicated Huntsville truck accident attorneys have the experience and skills needed to investigate the truck accident on your behalf, gather evidence to support your claim, and pursue the compensation you need to recover.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Accidents Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue

A recent study highlights the dangers of driver fatigue. The study found that individuals who were awake for 18 hours experienced the same level of impairment as a person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 percent, which is almost the legal limit in the United States (0.08). According to the same study, individuals who were awake for 24 hours had the equivalent of 0.10 BAC, which is above the legal alcohol limit.

When a fatigued driver is operating a vehicle that weighs up to 80,000 pounds, the danger they pose to themselves and everyone else on the road is amplified. Truck accidents tend to be severe and often fatal. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 4,119 people were killed in commercial truck accidents in a single recent year. A majority of those fatalities, 67 percent, were drivers and passengers in passenger vehicles – not the truck drivers.

Signs of Fatigued Driving

Truck driver fatigue can reveal itself in many ways. Some of the common signs that a truck driver is fatigued include:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Frequent blinking
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Missing exits or traffic signs
  • Frequent yawning or nodding off
  • Drifting from the lane or hitting rumble strips
  • Feeling irritable or restless
  • Slowed reaction times

Alabama and Federal Trucking Regulations Regarding Hours of Service

Because drowsy driving is one of the most common causes of truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established hours-of-service regulations that govern how many hours truck drivers are permitted to work. The primary purpose of these regulations is to reduce the chance that driver fatigue will cause a devastating truck accident.

The FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers dictate that:

  • Commercial truck drivers are permitted to drive a maximum of 11 hours in one day.
  • Commercial truck drivers are not allowed to work more than 14 hours in one shift. Shifts include non-driving time in addition to time on the road.
  • Commercial truck drivers can work no more than 8 hours straight without at least a half-hour break.
  • Commercial truck drivers are required to take off at least 10 hours between shifts.
  • Commercial truck drivers may work a maximum of 60 hours in a consecutive 7-day period or 70 hours in a consecutive 8-day period.
  • Commercial truck drivers can work 2 hours past the typical 11-hour workday if they encounter inclement weather or other hazardous conditions. In such cases, they are also allowed to add 2 hours onto their 14-hour shift.

Some truck drivers and their employers do not abide by the hours-of-service regulations. They may ignore the rules to make deliveries on time, often because they fear losing their jobs if they don’t meet their delivery deadlines.

Trucking companies sometimes pressure drivers to ignore hours of service regulations to make more deliveries and increase profits. Ignoring these regulations can have deadly consequences for drivers and especially for other motorists.

What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?

Truck drivers may experience fatigue for many reasons, but some of the most common causes are:

  • Driving for long periods
  • Driving late at night or early in the morning
  • Lack of sleep
  • Time changes
  • Medical conditions
  • Taking certain prescribed or over-the-counter medications
  • Alcohol or drug consumption

How Does Fatigue Contribute to Truck Crashes?

Driver fatigue negatively impacts essential functions that truck drivers depend on to drive safely. Fatigued truck drivers may not react quickly enough to stop or slow down in time to avoid a collision. Drowsy drivers may also begin to doze off, causing them to veer into another lane which could potentially cause a head-on collision. Drowsy drivers may also make bad judgment calls, as fatigue can impair a driver’s better judgment.

What Can I Do If a Fatigued Driver Caused My Accident?

If you were involved in a truck accident caused by a fatigued driver, then you could be entitled to claim compensation. Compensation is designed to help cover costs and losses resulting from an accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages if you’re unable to work, property damage, pain and suffering, and more.

In order to obtain compensation, you’ll need to demonstrate fault. That can be challenging, as there are often multiple liable parties when a truck accident occurs.

If you have been involved in an accident caused by a drowsy truck driver, you should consult with one of our dedicated Huntsville truck accident attorneys at Morris, King & Hodge, P.C. today.

Our attorneys have the resources to independently investigate the truck accident, determine liability, and aggressively pursue compensation on your behalf from the appropriate parties. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner they can begin to collect crucial evidence to support your case before it’s potentially lost or destroyed.

How a Huntsville Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help

At Morris, King & Hodge, P.C., our compassionate legal team understands the many challenges you may be facing following a truck accident in Alabama. We are prepared to do everything we can to help you recover and move forward, from helping you find the medical care you need to fight for the financial reward you deserve.

Let us leverage our experience and skills to fight for your rights while you focus on your recovery. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn what steps you can take next.