Understanding Truck Driver Fatigue And The Federal Hours of Service Regulations

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The trucking industry is an important part of the American economy. With so much money and time flowing into it, it makes sense that a great deal of pressure is placed on trucking companies and their drivers.

But this pressure is no reason to ignore best practices and the law when examining how much time drivers spend on the road.

Today, we’ll be examining the impact of fatigue on truck driver performance and how it correlates to more accidents on the road. Additionally, if you have experienced a truck accident, we would be happy to support you and answer your questions. Give our St. Louis truck accident attorney a call at (314) 408-5708 or book a consultation online.

What Is Fatigue?

When discussing what a truck driver may be experiencing on the road, it’s important to understand the aspects of fatigue. Fatigue is a physical, mental, and emotional state beyond just sleepiness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes fatigue as “a feeling of weariness, tiredness or lack of energy.”

The CDC also found that fatigue occurs in individuals with non-standard work schedules that disrupt and shorten sleep.

According to the CDC, fatigue can:

If an individual is responsible for driving a truck safely to various stops across the country, the impact of fatigue cannot be overstated. All of the above skills (reaction time, memory, concentration, and judgment) are critical to ensuring everyone on the road is safe and the truck is operating correctly.

Federal Hours Of Service Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has attempted to regulate truckers’ working hours to address fatigue issues. These time restraints are known as hours of service or HOS.

For cargo and property-hauling CMV drivers, FMCSA requires

Some of these requirements are extended, but those are only for specific circumstances. Another challenging issue is that drivers aren’t required to sleep during their 10-hour off-duty period, which could mean a trucker stays up the entire time and then resumes driving.

Despite these regulations, trucking companies may, explicitly or implicitly, pressure drivers to bypass HOS requirements to meet delivery deadlines. A study from the CDC reveals that being awake for 24 consecutive hours induces physical and mental impairments equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol content (BAC). Plus, driving fatigued poses significant dangers to motorists – the FMCSA identifies drowsiness as the leading cause of heavy-duty truck-related accidents.

Who Is Liable If A Fatigued Trucker Injures You?

This answer largely depends on who made that driver push past HOS requirements and drive while fatigued. If the driver is an owner-operator, they are responsible for setting their schedule and would likely be liable.

However, if a truck operator forces or threatens the driver to continue, knowing that the driver is breaking HOS regulations, then that truck operator may also be held liable for any truck accidents they cause.

If you need guidance or assistance in understanding truck accidents, call our lawyers at Miller & Hine at (314) 408-5708 or schedule an online appointment. Our skilled team of St. Louis personal injury attorneys wishes to support all Missouri truck accident victims.