Sleepy Drivers Cause Thousands of Truck Accidents a Year in Texas, but Driver Fatigue is Preventable
During 2015, there were more than 35,000 truck accidents on Texas roadways. Overall, including all motor vehicles, it was reported at that more 9,000 accidents across Texas involved sleepy drivers. This is a frightening enough number and yet the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that as many as 72,000 crashes across the United States may involve drowsy driving. This same report indicated truckers were in one of the five groups most likely to drive drowsy.
If you were injured in a truck accident and believe the truck driver’s fatigue caused the accident, call our law firm to speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer. Many truck drivers are pushed to make unrealistic deadlines and violate the legal driving hour limit by the companies they work for, and these employers can and should be held responsible.
Restrictions on Commercial Drivers to Prevent Fatigue
When states do not have their own commercial driver rules pertaining to rest breaks, the default is to use guidelines provided by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These guidelines are designed to ensure those who are traveling with goods or transporting passengers have sufficient rest. For those who are carrying goods, some of the guidelines include:
- Not more than 11/14 hours driving – drivers may drive as many as 11 to 14 hours only if they have had at least 10 hours of consecutive time off.
- Rest break requirement – all drivers who have driven at least 8 hours must be allowed at least a 30-minute break either away from the vehicle or in a sleeper berth. It is important to note there are exceptions for trips known as “short-hauls”.
- Sleeper berth provisions – any driver who has a truck equipped with a sleeper berth must be able to spend 8 uninterrupted hours of the 10-hour rest period in the berth. The remaining two hours may be in our out of the berth so long as the driver is not on the road.
Texas has slightly modified rules which state truckers may drive 12 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty if their route is intrastate and may not drive if they have been on duty for 15 hours. The primary restriction noted inTexas Administrative Code (Title 37 Part 1 Chapter 4 Subchapter B Rule § 4.12) is that a truck driver must have at least 8 hours of sleep time either in a sleeper berth or other acceptable off duty time. Every state has slightly different guidelines but none may be less stringent than the federal guidelines (Title 49 § 392.3) . In Texas, trucking and transportation companies lobbied to have the maximum driving hours per week increased and came close to winning, fortunately the bill was shot down.
Sleep and Driving: Why Sufficient Rest Matters
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recognizes sleep deprivation as a public health problem. By some estimates, they have determined almost 20 percent of people do not get enough rest on a daily basis. On the roadways, this statistic is worrisome since driver sleepiness is a leading cause of car and truck accidents on the road.
In 2012, the National Sleep Foundation released a survey which showed that nearly 11 percent of all transportation workers showed up to work feeling sleepy. As many as 15 percent of all truck drivers stated that being sleepy or drowsy accounted for at least one accident or near miss as a result of insufficient sleep. Business leaders and healthcare professionals alike agree that being sleepy on the job makes workers less safe and able to perform their jobs effectively. In fact, “Sleepy drivers tend to display reduced vigilance, slow reaction times, and loss of steering control” according toa research study about the impact of sleep deprivation. The same study also reported that sleepy drivers performed worse on driving simulations than people who were intoxicated by alcohol.
Unrealistic Expectations Cause Sleepy Drivers
Most trucking companies have deadlines to meet in order to keep products and goods moving across the country. The more people shop on Amazon and other online stores to have packages delivered to their homes, the more roads will become congested with large commercial vehicles. Increased demand for deliveries by truck drivers means employers have unrealistic expectations of their drivers. Drivers may be already be trying to cover lost ground or extra routes offered to them for bonuses or other rewards. This creates a dangerous situation, particularly if the sleepy driver runs into bad weather, heavy traffic, delays in dropping a load and the company’s only concern is often the bottom line: profit. Unrealistic expectations from trucking companies leads to drivers deciding to push forward, even when they are not comfortable with it. To compound this matter, when a driver is involved in an accident, they are facing the loss of their commercial driving license, possible lawsuits for negligence, and unemployment not to mention their own injuries and medical bills.
Trucking may sound like a relatively stress-free job but there are often thousands of fatal and serious truck accidents reported every year. During 2012, more than 120 truck drivers lost their lives in Texas, the highest reported number in the United States. During 2011, there were more than 10,270,693 registered large trucks on the road in the United States. Sleepy drivers who are pushed to perform, often beyond the guidelines set up by Texas statutes or the federal government, are putting themselves as well as others on the roadways at risk.
Injuries from Truck Accidents Caused by Fatigue
Victims of truck accidents often suffer more serious injuries because of the size of the vehicles involved. While whiplash is one of the most common injuries, victims could suffer head injuries, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and even death. These injuries are common in victims who do not lose their lives; instead their lives are changed forever.
Victims of a truck accident, whether caused by driver fatigue or something else, have a right to file an injury lawsuit for compensation if the accident was a result of negligence. Long-term medical care, lost time from work and rehabilitation therapy are often only the beginning of the problems victims face after a truck accident.
Contact Baron & Budd to Schedule a Free Consultation
When a truck driver follows their employer’s instructions or delivery schedule that violate the law, the trucking company may be liable for medical bills and other costs associated with recovering from a truck accident caused by driver fatigue. It’s important for victims to contact an attorney who has an understanding of both federal and state laws regarding driver rest periods and restrictions on driving hours. Call Baron & Budd today to schedule a free consultation with our lawyers for truck accident injuries.
- Texas Department of Transportation Crash Statistics, 2015. Link to pdf download: http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2015/29.pdf
- Texas Department of Transportation, Truck Driver Workplace Fatalities, 2015. Link to pdf download: http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2015/20.pdf
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Commercial Motor Vehicle Facts, 2013. Link to pdf download: http://cms.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Commercial_Motor_Vechicle_Facts_March_2013.pdf