By: Attorney Chris Strohbehn and Paralegal Ruth Campos
Truck accidents are a serious problem on our nation’s roads. Each year, thousands of people are killed in accidents with large trucks and other commercial vehicles, and tens of thousands more suffer serious injuries in these types of collisions. Many of these accidents are caused by driver fatigue. Truck drivers can easily become tired or drowsy after being on the road for extended periods of time. Attempting to drive when a person is too tired to operate a commercial vehicle safely greatly increases the chances of a truck accident. In fact, studies have shown that between 7 and 13 percent of fatal truck crashes are associated with a lack of sleep. Victims who are injured in these types of accidents can work with a personal injury attorney to establish liability and pursue compensation for their damages.
Issues Leading to Truck Driver Fatigue
Truck drivers are required to undergo extensive training to ensure that they will be able to operate large trucks safely. They must also obtain commercial driver’s licenses, and they must abide by “hours of service” regulations to ensure that they do not remain on the road for longer than is safe. Under these regulations, truck drivers are generally limited to 11 hours of driving in a day, and they cannot drive at all after the 14th hour following the beginning of their shift. They are also required to spend at least 10 hours off-duty between driving shifts, and seven of those hours must be spent in a sleeper berth. A half-hour break must also be taken after driving for a total of eight hours.
Even when abiding by these regulations, fatigue is likely to affect truck drivers, especially when they are nearing the end of a shift, when they are driving late at night, or when their driving shifts take place at irregular times. When truck drivers recognize that they are becoming drowsy, they should be able to stop and get rest. Unfortunately, they may not be permitted to do so by their employers. In many cases, trucking companies are looking to deliver cargo as quickly as possible, and dispatchers will often encourage truck drivers to continue driving, even if they feel that it is not safe to do so.
In an attempt to remain awake and alert, truck drivers may use a number of methods to fight drowsiness, such as drinking coffee or soda, rolling down their windows, playing loud music, or conversing with other drivers on a CB radio. However, getting sufficient rest and sleep is the only effective way to fight fatigue. These other methods may do more harm than good, since they will not actually address the physical issues that a driver is experiencing.
Even if a truck driver follows all regulations and takes the required breaks, this does not guarantee that they will not experience drowsiness. In many cases, health issues that affect drivers may increase the likelihood of fatigue. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea may reduce a driver’s quality of sleep, and a driver may not get enough rest to ensure they will be able to maintain the proper energy levels during a long shift. Certain medical disorders, such as anemia, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), or obesity, can lead to fatigue, and medications such as painkillers or cold and flu medicines may also cause drowsiness. Failure to properly address these issues may cause a driver to be unable to avoid a dangerous accident.
Contact Our Milwaukee Truck Accident Lawyers for Driver Fatigue
If you have been injured in a truck accident that was caused by driver fatigue, the law firm of Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP can help. We have extensive experience representing victims of truck accidents. We can help establish liability for your accident by gathering evidence to show that a truck driver was drowsy or unsafe to drive, and we will work to ensure that the company that employed the driver will be held responsible for the damages you have suffered. Contact our Milwaukee, WI truck accident attorneys today at 414-271-1440.