The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides regulations and guidelines regarding the operation of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV). While these regulations are required by law, many trucking companies incentivize drivers to deliver as many goods as possible in the shortest amount of time in order to increase profit. While there are standards established regarding rest periods, some commercial truck drivers do not adhere to these standards in an attempt to deliver their cargo more quickly. This lack of rest and sleep can leave truck drivers severely fatigued and lead to catastrophic accidents resulting in severe injuries or death.

FMCSA Hours of Service Regulations

Truck driver fatigue and drowsy driving account for thousands of accidents every year in the United States. Knowing that fatigued driving can lead to serious accidents, the FMCSA established strict guidelines regarding how often truck drivers must rest and sleep. The Hours of Service Regulations specifically regulate the number of hours a truck driver is allowed to drive, along with how many hours they must rest before driving again.
Some of the requirements listed in the Hours of Service Regulations include the following:

  • Truck drivers may only drive up to 11 hours straight at a time. This 11-hour period of drive time may only occur after the semi-truck driver has been off-duty for 10 consecutive hours.
  • Truck drivers may only drive 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days.
    • Any of these consecutive driving periods must occur following 34 hours or more of continuous off-duty hours.

CFR §392.3 for Ill or fatigued operators further states the following:

“No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle. However, in a case of grave emergency where the hazard to occupants of the commercial motor vehicle or other users of the highway would be increased by compliance with this section, the driver may continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle to the nearest place at which that hazard is removed.”

Truck Driver Fatigue

Driving while fatigued affects any driver, however, when the driver of a large commercial truck operates their tractor-trailer or 18-wheeler while fatigued, serious accidents such as rollovers and jackknife accidents may occur. These severe accidents can involve multiple-car pile ups, permanent injuries or even death. In 13% of all accidents involving a large commercial truck, the cause of the accident was directly due to truck driver fatigue. Along with sitting for long periods of time and driving at night, many truck drivers suffer from interrupted sleep schedules and sleep apnea which impact the cognitive abilities of a truck driver to make good decisions on the roadways.

The National Sleep Foundation research shows that if a person drives without sleeping for 24 hours, they are just as cognitively impaired as if they were driving under the influence of alcohol over the legal limit. Driver fatigue causes slower reaction times, impaired judgment, impaired coordination, and decreased vision. When a truck driver is fatigued due to overworking and failing to follow the rest guidance established by federal regulations, catastrophic accidents may occur resulting in personal injuries to other motorists, passengers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.

Contact a Trucking Accident Attorney

If you suffered injuries or losses due to a trucking accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at Griggs Injury Law at (816) 474-0202 immediately in order to preserve the evidence necessary to pursue your legal claim. Many of the records necessary, such as logbooks and driving records, are critical to your case and need to be preserved through a spoliation letter. Contact our legal team today to find out how we can help you build a strong personal injury case following your trucking accident.