Truck-related highway accidents are far too prevalent. In both Missouri and Arkansas, there were nearly 100 motor vehicle fatalities in 2012 that involved large commercial trucks. The reality is, accidents involving 18-wheelers are usually very serious, even catastrophic, due to the sheer size and weight of those trucks. A car is no match for an 80,000 pound commercial truck. Because of the serious risks 18-wheelers create on the highways, there are many federal and state regulations regarding how trucking companies, and the truck driver’s themselves, must operate. Unfortunately, driver exhaustion is a serious problem for long-haul truck drivers, frequently resulting in avoidable accidents and death.
Exhausted commercial truck driver killed a man in Florida
A few years ago, Wal-Mart was thrust into the spotlight once again, when one of their truck drivers killed a man in Jacksonville, Florida. It was in June of 2014 that the truck driver crossed the median and struck the other vehicle head-on. It was asserted that, not only did the truck have several maintenance issues, but the driver, Wilbur Peterson, was seriously fatigued at the time of the accident.
It was alleged that Wal-Mart allowed Peterson to exceed the number of hours a truck driver is allowed to drive before taking mandatory rest breaks. The week just prior to the accident, Peterson had driven 65 hours, and was driving another 12-hour shift at the time of the crash. Not to mention, he was speeding and the tires on the 18-wheeler needed replacing.
Common Causes of Trucking Accidents
Of course, every trucking accident is the result of different circumstances, there are at least five common causes of truck accidents: driver error, equipment failure, improper loading, incompetent drivers, and weather. Driver exhaustion or driver fatigue, as it is sometimes referred, is believed to be one of the most common causes of trucking accidents.
Driver error often results from driver fatigue
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, one of the regulatory agencies in the trucking industry, has said that driver error is the most common cause of trucking accidents. Driver error can be the result of several different factors, such as distraction, fatigue, substance abuse or drug intoxication. These factors lead truck drivers to become incapable of appropriately reacting to dangers on the roadway. Despite the rules that have been created to limit commercial truck drivers’ driving time and to mandate rest breaks, these rules are often ignored in order to make more profit.
“Hours of Service” rules, if followed, can reduce the risk of driver error caused by fatigue
Actually, there are strict rules in place regarding how many hours a truck driver can drive before they are required to take a rest break. This is known as the “hours of service” rule, which mandates an 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day limit. The maximum work week must be limited to 70 hours and the driver is only allowed to resume if he or she has rested for 34 consecutive hours. Drivers are also required to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of every shift. These regulations were put into effect in July of 2013.
However, many in the trucking industry disagree with these limitations. Some say the 34-hour restart requirement results in a significant loss in productivity, as the drivers cannot go as far as they used to, they are making less money. The debate continues, while many drivers and truck driving companies ignore the rules to make a bigger profit.
If you have questions regarding trucking accidents, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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