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Uncovering an Unexpected Cause of Many Truck Accidents: Driver Fatigue

Uncovering an Unexpected Cause of Many Truck Accidents: Driver Fatigue

This is the third blog in a series discussing unique aspects of truck accident cases. The first blog focused on unique digital evidence that can prove a truck accident caseThe second blog focused on how such evidence can be used to show a critical problem in the trucking industry: truck driver distraction. This blog will focus on another common cause of trucking crashes that we have identified in truck accidents throughout Ohio: truck driver fatigue.   

Why are Tired Truck Drivers More Likely to Cause a Trucking Crash? 

Research shows that sleep deprivation slows a driver’s reaction time and can lead to lapses in attention and processing. Especially for truck drivers carrying 80,000 pounds, a slowed reaction time and the other effects of drowsiness can be fatal.   

According to a study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study, drivers who slept for less than 4 hours during the previous day were 11.5 times more likely to cause an accident than someone who slept for more than 7 hours. In comparison, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that a driver with a blood alcohol content of .08 was only 3.9 times more likely to cause a crash than a driver who had not consumed any alcohol. This means that a tired truck driver is 3 times more likely to cause a crash than a driver who is intoxicated. In fact, other studies conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study found that drivers with less than four hours of sleep were 1,150% more likely to cause a crash. “Sleep debt” occurs if, instead of getting the necessary amount of sleep, the truck driver gets less sleep than they should day after day, and the lost hours of sleep pile up. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine studied truck drivers and found that those who accumulated a sleep debt by repeatedly sleeping for only 4 or 6 hours showed growing cognitive deficits each day of successive sleep deprivation. This means that when a truck driver regularly sleeps less than the recommended amount of sleep over the course of several days, they are more likely to cause a crash each day they don’t get a full night of sleep.  

This is especially concerning because a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that long-haul commercial truck drivers averaged less than 5 hours of sleep per nightThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believes that drowsy driving was a likely cause of more than half of all truck crashes that lead to a truck driver’s death – often seriously hurting or killing other motorists in the process. 

Truck Injury Law Firm

Federal Regulations for Truck Drivers 

When evidence points to driver fatigue causing a truck crash, many trucking companies claim that they aren’t responsible for a crash if the truck driver did not technically violate the hours-of-service restrictions in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) (discussed previously in our distracted truck driver blog)However, 49 CFR 392.3 not only instructs a commercial truck driver not to drive “while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue” but also requires the trucking company or motor carrier not to require or permit a driver to drive while fatigued.   

Ohio Commercial Driver’s License Manual 

While the FMCSR establish the minimum federal regulations enforced, the Ohio Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Manual establishes the requirements in order to obtain a commercial driver’s license in Ohio. Section 2.11.2 identifies that “Fatigue causes errors related to speed and distance, increases your risk of being in a crash, causes you to not see and react to hazards as quickly; and affects your ability to make critical decisions. When you are fatigued, you could fall asleep behind the wheel and crash, injuring or killing yourself or others.”  Despite these warnings and regulations, our truck accident lawyers regularly discovers that fatigue plays a crucial role in causing fatal truck accidents. 

Federal Regulations for Truck Drivers

What are the Types of Evidence has Plakas Mannos Used to Uncover Driver Fatigue? 

As lawyers for many semi-truck accident cases, we have come to discover the following evidence in various cases: 

  • Cell Phone: Drivers often state that when they are off duty, they are sleeping. Through conducting a forensic imaging of the truck driver’s cell phone, we have shown that truck drivers were actually awake and as a result were driving with significant sleep deficits at the time of crashes. 
  • Telematics Systems: Telematics systems record information that can include GPS location, speed, sudden braking events, and messaging. We have used this data to show that the truck driver’s behavior leading up to a truck accident indicated unsafe driving behavior that suggested significant fatigue. 
  • Drive Camera Systems: Drive camera systems can record the moments leading up to a truck accident and can record video both facing the driver and facing the road.  This video can show a driver “nodding off” or visibly fighting fatigue in the moments leading up to a truck accident. 
  • Electronic Driver Logs and Hours of Service Logs: Truck drivers are required to keep logs confirming they are complying with the FMCSR hours-of-duty regulations. By auditing these logs, we have been able to uncover times where a driver fraudulently manipulated these records and was driving longer than permitted by the FMCSR. This has helped show that the driver was required to drive longer than permitted and contributed to fatigue leading up to a truck crash. 

truck driver fatigue evidence

Your Truck Injury Law Firm in Akron & Canton, Ohio 

Driver fatigue is well-known in the trucking industry as a major danger to the public that can cause truck accidents. Often drivers ignore the signs of fatigue because, “If the wheels ain’t turning, you ain’t earning.” However, trucking companies are required not to aid or abet a driver in violating the FMCSR and often turn a blind eye or actively require drivers to take routes and make deliveries in a way that is likely to cause driver fatigue. Moreover, unsafe trucking companies sometimes give drivers no choice but to work in situations that are likely to cause fatigue, putting both the truck driver and the motoring public in serious danger.  

At Plakas Mannos, we understand the urgency and importance of preserving evidence and looking for all possible causes of a truck crash including truck driver fatigue. 

If you do not act quickly, you risk losing valuable pieces of the story of your case forever. Don't let valuable evidence slip away. For a truck wreck attorney near you, contact us today to safeguard your case, secure your future, and to help uncover dangerous trucking company operations to keep the public safe.



About the Authors

Headshot of Collin Wise Maria

Collin Wise concentrates on car crashes, commercial truck accidents, personal injury and wrongful death litigation, as well as business litigation. Maria Klutinoty Edwards handles serious car and trucking accident cases, medical malpractice, industrial accidents, personal injury, wrongful death cases, as well as business litigation.

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