Our nation’s truckers work hard, and the health of our economy relies heavily upon commercial trucking. But when truck drivers fail to follow the regulations put in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and drive despite suffering from driver fatigue, it’s not just their lives that they put at risk.
As Houston truck accident lawyers, we are all-too-familiar with Texas’ sprawl and the 12-lane highways that keep our state moving, and the many truck accidents that occur here. At Mithoff Law, we put that experience into practice, representing those injured or the families of those killed in commercial trucking accidents from all over the nation. Led by Richard Mithoff, who was twice voted one of the nation’s top trial lawyers by Forbes, Mithoff Law works hard to ensure that our clients’ interests are zealously represented whenever we are called on to investigate and pursue a claim.
Our team has won several landmark cases over the past several decades, including a case in which a van was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler on I-10, leaving a 9-year-old and 18-year old dead and a woman and man with burns covering over two-thirds and 85% of their bodies, respectively. A jury awarded the injured victims and the families of the two deceased individuals with nearly $32 million in compensation.
If you were injured in a truck accident, discover how the regulations surrounding truck drivers, especially those regarding truck driver fatigue, apply to your case, then call Mithoff Law at 713-654-1122 to set up your free consultation today.
Understanding truck driver fatigue
If trucking hours are regulated, why is truck driver fatigue still an issue? Consider that even the everyday driver struggles with drowsy driving. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies show that an estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers report having fallen asleep at the wheel within the past 30 days, and that drowsy driving was responsible for approximately 72,000 car crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013 alone.
Now consider that truckers must spend long, often monotonous hours on the road as part of their work. Many prefer to drive at night, both to avoid traffic and to increase their rate of return, as most truckers are paid by the mile and may be pressured to deliver their shipments quickly — which can also inspire speeding.
Of course, no matter the reasons or motivations, it is unacceptable for trucking companies and truck drivers to ignore regulations and put the lives of other drivers at risk.
Truck driver fatigue laws
Truck driver fatigue is not a new issue; regulations regarding driving limits and mandatory breaks have long been in effect, and studies for how these regulations may be improved are constantly underway. These regulations are updated on the FMCSA page regarding service hours. The May 2020 Final Rule can also be found on the FMCSA site.
Starting in September, 2020, property-carrying truck drivers are required to comply with the following regulations:
- Truck drivers may not drive more than 11 consecutive hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- After 10 consecutive hours off-duty, drivers have 14 hours in which to complete their driving before they must spend another 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- Must take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of driving after the 10 consecutive hour break. There are exceptions to this rule for long-haul drivers.
- Must take 34 hours off-duty after driving either 60 hours in 7 days, or 70 hours in 8 days (depending on the selection of the employer).
- Note that there are exceptions to these rules for short-hauls and for drivers using the sleeper berth provision.
Of course, these regulations have their limitations. For example, we don’t have accurate answers to the question, “How much sleep do truck drivers get?” And even if we know how many hours of sleep a truck driver may receive, we don’t know whether the sleep is quality sleep.
In fact, it’s been noted that the sleep of long-haul truck drivers is also negatively affected by sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops repeatedly throughout the night. (Sleep apnea is more prominent in individuals who are overweight; since truck drivers’ work is necessarily sedentary, many truckers struggle with this aspect of their health.)
What are signs of a drowsy driver?
While there are many techniques for truck drivers to spot drowsy driving in themselves, truck driver fatigue isn’t always easy to spot from the outside.
However, you should watch out for trucks that are:
- Drifting between lanes
- Swerving frequently
- Drifting over to rumble strips on the side of the road
- Breaking excessively
- Excessively tailgating
- Committing violations of even basic traffic laws
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a drowsy truck driver and a drunk one. In fact, one often-quoted study by the Adelaide Centre for Sleep Research concluded a person who has been awake for 24 hours exhibits the same driving behaviors as someone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .1 grams per 100 mL of blood. Note that this is a higher level of intoxication than the point at which the law considers someone to be intoxicated (a BAC of .08 grams).
Other issues often often involved in truck accident cases
Truck driver fatigue is just one of many factors that can contribute to a trucking accident. Other issues include breaking load limits and overloading a truck, failure to conduct a proper safety inspection, inadequate training, irresponsible driving. In some cases, the cause of a truck accident may not involve the truck driver or vehicle at all, but may instead have been caused by a manufacturing defect in your own car.
Why hire a Houston truck accident attorney at Mithoff Law?
Trucking companies regularly handle truck accident cases. Meanwhile, this is likely the first (and hopefully the last) truck accident case you will be involved with. Building a truck accident case is time-intensive and requires a deep understanding of both the law and the trucking industry. In short, the discrepancy in experience handling these cases simply does not work in your favor.
Retaining a trustworthy attorney means that you can begin investigating the cause of your accident, collecting evidence, and building a case on more equal footing with the trucking company.
Mithoff Law has created resources to help you search for the best truck accident lawyer available, including what questions you should ask a prospective truck accident attorney in Texas before hiring them. We encourage you to check out these resources before your consultation with us or any other law firm.
Injured in an accident involving truck driver fatigue? Get top representation with Mithoff Law.
If you or a loved one were injured or killed in an accident involving truck driver fatigue, know that you do not need to seek damages without help. Legal representation can provide those injured in an 18-wheeler or commercial truck accident with support as you navigate the claims process.
Once retained, the skilled Houston vehicle accident lawyers at Mithoff Law can put our decades of experience handling truck accident cases to work and begin investigating the true cause of your accident.
Work with a Houston truck accident law firm that has earned its reputation for serving our clients’ best interests. Call Mithoff Law at 713-654-1122 to set up your free consultation today.
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