Truck Driver Fatigue

In 2014, Maine Senator Susan Collins introduced an amendment to repeal elements of a 2011 DOT rule, which required truck drivers to get adequate amounts of rest. The 2011 rule mandated that drivers must take a 30-minute rest break within the first eight hours of their shift, and a 34-hour “restart” period once every seven days. The net effect of those changes was to reduce the maximum work hours in any given week from 82 hours to 70 hours. The Collins amendment would remove the requirement, which mandated that the rest periods include two overnights, allowing drivers more than one restart in any seven-day period.

The Collins amendment leaves many puzzled, wondering why we would want more fatigued drivers on our roadways—especially when 35-40% of all truck accidents are attributed to truck driver fatigue. The 2011 amendment lowered the number of hours a trucker could drive at a stretch from twelve hours to eleven hours.

Truck drivers work long hours, facing rigorous schedules and strenuous deadlines. A fatigued truck driver is much more likely to nod off at the wheel of their truck—leaving an 80,000-pound machine barreling down the roadway, resulting in serious injury and death. Some of the factors which contribute to truck driver fatigue include:

• Truck drivers are only paid for the time they are driving, leading them to “fudge” log books and driver longer hours.
• Truck drivers are subject to tight delivery deadlines, causing them to drive more hours than legally allowed. The trucking companies are well aware of this, but have little motivation to encourage their drivers to rest. After all, the quicker drivers deliver the loads, the better the trucking company’s financial bottom line.
• Truck drivers are afraid of losing their jobs if they don’t continue driving and delivering loads on time—and even ahead of time.

The latest research on sleep demonstrates clearly that long work hours with no recovery time, leads to reduced sleep and chronic fatigue. This level of fatigue results in slower reaction times and an inability to quickly assess a situation.

Less-than-Accurate Logbooks

Unfortunately, it is relatively common for truck drivers to falsify logbooks or to keep two sets of logbooks in their truck. One set is shown to the DOT officials, the other is a true record of hours driven for correct payment to the driver. Inside the trucking industry, logbooks are sometimes known as “comic books,” because of the degree of falsification. Shockingly, more than 200,000 logbook violations are found each year, so it isn’t hard to imagine how many go undiscovered.

Trucking companies are legally bound to keep logbook records for a period of six months, but once that time is up, the records generally disappear, with no one the wiser. One potential solution to the issue of duplicate logbooks lies in the proposed Electronic On-Board recorder which records the times the truck is on the road and allows DOT officials to easily examine these electronic logbooks.

Truck Drivers’ Attempts to Stay Awake and Alert

In an attempt to keep from getting drowsy, a significant number of truck drivers turn to “speed” or methamphetamine use to remain awake and alert during the long hours behind the wheel of the truck. Most all truck stops sell some form of methamphetamine, usually in the form of ephedrine. Also used for asthma, the drug is a stimulant, and while it may allow the driver to remain awake, ephedrine can bring serious side-effects. Chronic use of ephedrine or other forms of methamphetamine can result in delayed reaction times and an inability to focus on the road. Drug use, even over-the-counter drug use can result in deadly trucking accidents in Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.

Contact Trucking Accident Lawyers

At Patrick Malone & Associates, our trucking accident lawyers understand how serious truck accidents in the Washington, DC metro area, Virginia, and throughout the State of Maryland can be. We also know that fatigued and overworked truck drivers routinely cause truck accidents. As such, we work quickly to obtain valuable logbooks, black box data, and evidence to build a case that is designed to recover maximum compensation after a trucking accident. Call us at 1-202-742-1500 or 1-888-625-6645 or fill out our confidential contact form for a FREE Consultation and review of your case.

The trucking accident attorneys at Patrick Malone & Associates have successfully represented injured individuals in Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Rockville, Baltimore, Richmond, Fairfax, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and other locations throughout Maryland and Virginia.