Truck Driver Fatigue and Crashes

Commercial trucks, commonly known as tractor-trailers, semi trailers, or 18-wheelers, present a unique risk to Florida drivers. As the biggest and heaviest vehicles on the road, they can cause substantial damage in an automobile accident. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, large trucks are involved in more than 8,000 injury accidents in Florida every year. Nationwide, as many as twenty-five percent of traffic fatalities in multi-vehicle accidents involve a large truck, with the occupants of the smaller vehicle most likely to suffer injury.

Because of the danger posed by their size and difficulties in handling and maneuvering, truck drivers are subject to regulations at the state and federal level to guard against impaired, distracted, or fatigued driving. If an accident does occur, a Florida 18-wheeler accident lawyer can help you identify the liable parties and claim damages.

Causes and Risks of Truck Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue plays a role in a large number of truck accidents in Florida. Commercial truck drivers face long routes and tight deadlines, which may lead them to take risks that endanger themselves and others on the road. A fatigued or distracted driver will have particular difficulty controlling a vehicle that can weigh up to forty tons when fully loaded. Aside from property damage, an 18-wheeler accident can cause significant and disabling injuries or even death. Possible causes of truck driver fatigue or impairment include:

  • - Delivery deadlines leading to long driving shifts;
  • - Stress due to pressure from employers or supervisors;
  • - Lack of driving experience;
  • - Distracted, impaired, or drunk driving; and
  • - Medical conditions.

Regulations Relating to Truck Driver Fatigue

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes a number of restrictions on truck drivers and trucking companies to guard against truck driver fatigue. Truck drivers must maintain a commercial driver’s license that includes specific training and certification in matters unique to large commercial trucks.

The FMCSA imposes strict limits on the length of time a driver may be on the road without stopping to rest. For trucks carrying property, a driver must first have ten hours of rest, and then may only be on-duty for fourteen hours before resting for another ten. During the fourteen hours on-duty, the driver may only drive for eleven hours. For vehicles carrying passengers, the requirements are eight hours off-duty for every fifteen hours on-duty.

While Florida state law prohibits drivers from operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, FMCSA regulations set the legal limit at half that amount. A truck driver with a BAC of .04 percent or higher may not drive a truck, and an employer with knowledge of a driver’s BAC may not allow them to drive.

Liability for Truck Driver Fatigue

Determining liability in accidents involving truck driver fatigue can be difficult. It is important to examine police accident reports, truck driver logs, and other documentation to determine exactly how an accident occurred. The identity of the liable party may depend on whether the truck driver failed to follow FMCSA regulations on his or her own, or if the truck driver violated regulations at the insistence of a trucking company.

The Deerfield Beach truck accident attorneys at Goldman & Daszkal, P.A. represent people in Palm Beach and Broward County who have been injured in automobile and other vehicle accidents. Contact the firm through this website or at 954-428-9333 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.