On July 1, 2013 the U.S. Department of Transportation implemented new rules targeting “extreme” driving in the trucking industry. According to the DOT, these rules were carefully crafted based upon years of scientific research concerning driver fatigue and road safety and only impact the most extreme schedules – about 15% of the trucking workforce. These changes include:
- Reducing the maximum hours an operator can drive a truck every week to 70 (from 82).
- Requiring drivers to take a 30 minute break during the first 8 hours of their shift.
- Allowing drivers who log the maximum 70 hours in a week to resume driving if they have rested for a full 34 hours (consecutive) that included two periods spanning 1am to 5am (a time when people need sleep the most).
If caught violating the new rules, trucking companies and motor carriers can face fines of up to $11,000 per offense, while the guilty drivers could face fines totaling $2,750 per offense.
Having handled my share of trucking cases over the years, I know just how dangerous these massive semi-trailer rigs can be, especially with a fatigued or inattentive driver behind the wheel. In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, some 3000-4000 people die in large truck accidents across America every year and about 13% of these deaths are caused by fatigued drivers.
Often driver fatigue or inattention is caused by “over driving” and neglecting the body’s need for sleep. However, it has been my experience that a great number of truckers also suffer from sleep apnea or other respiratory conditions that disrupt their sleep and cause them to suffer fatigue despite several hours of rest. In fact, I recently had a case where a young man was killed by a semi-truck whose driver was diagnosed with sleep apnea and hypersomnia – a condition that causes extreme sleepiness, sudden daytime naps, and even hallucinations. Hypersomnia is a disqualifying condition for truck drivers, as is untreated sleep apnea.
In that case, the driver had stopped treating his sleep apnea years before the crash and had failed to disclose his history of sleep disorders to his employer or medical examiners as required by law. Consequently, at the time of this crash, the driver was operating a 75,000 lbs. semi-truck rig filled with liquid concrete in the pitch darkness at 2 in the morning! Despite some tough liability issues in this case, I was able to obtain a good result for my victim’s estate largely because I understood the medical condition and had explored the driver’s health issues and the threat that they posed to other drivers in discovery.
This case is not as rare as one would think. In fact, driver fatigue and sleep apnea issues are so prevalent in trucking accidents that they, along with mechanical violations, are the first things I look for when investigating a truck-related injury case. So, if you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident please call the offices of Indiana Trucking Accident Attorney James Ludlow at 1-877-897-9466 or submit the simple form on the Contact Us page for a free case evaluation and put my experience and knowledge to work for you.