The trucking industry represents a complex dilemma for Americans. While our economy is dependent on the critical role served by large trucks in the transport of goods throughout Florida and the rest of the country, these vehicles are prone to causing permanent debilitating injuries and fatalities when truck drivers fail to operate a big-rig safely. Although there are many factors that contribute to crashes involving large trucks, driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of trucking accidents.
Because trucks that are parked while a driver rests are not producing income for the driver or profits for the trucking company, truck drivers and commercial carriers have a strong incentive to cover as many miles as quickly as possible. Since speeding truck drivers are easily identified by law enforcement officers, some truckers rely on fudging their driver logbooks and exceeding hours of service rules to increase their income. Given the slow path toward economic recovery, the pressure to remain on the road longer hours motivates truck drivers to disregard driver fatigue with the tacit approval of trucking companies that look the other way.
Long Established Relationship between Fatigue and Fatal Trucking Accidents
A fatal trucking accident that occurred in Oklahoma almost exactly six years ago continues to serve as a tragic warning of the magnitude of risk of ignoring the danger of truck driver fatigue. The truck driver had been on the road for eleven hours before he was overcome by physical and mental exhaustion. The big-rig plowed into a line of passenger car that were stopped on the highway. Ten people were killed in a chain reaction crash that was initiated by the truck driver who never even applied the brakes.
It might be tempting to assume that serious tractor-trailer accidents only happen to other people or that the incident above has been rectified by updated trucking regulations. However, the fatal trucking accident involving a Wal-Mart truck that caused a death and severe injuries to comedian Tracy Morgan serves as a more recent example. In that crash, the truck driver had been working for 13 hours and 32 minutes prior to the crash, pushing the 14 hour federal limits for truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce. Federal investigators also expressed concerns because the Walmart driver had allegedly not slept during the 24 hours prior to the fatal trucking accident.
Truck Drivers and Commercial Carriers Continue to Oppose Modified Hours of Service Rules
Despite the danger of boredom, fatigue and lack of sleep associated with driving long shifts or driving during “graveyard shift” hours, the trucking industry continues to fight changes that could make others on Florida and U.S. roadways safer. The trucking industry, in essence, argues that federal regulators have no right to regulate sleep. However, federal traffic safety experts and regulators indicate that drowsy driving is a leading cause of accidents and traffic fatalities.
Federal trucking regulations governing hours of service (HOS) rules were modified in 2013 to mitigate the risk of fatigue-based trucking accidents. The maximum workweek was reduced from 82 hours to 70 hours. While the workweek period can be restarted, the driver must observe a mandatory 34-hour resting period prior to any restart. The “restart” must be comprised of two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods to facilitate a minimum of two nights of rest per week for drivers. The new HOS rules also mandate a maximum 11 hour driving day with a thirty minute break at some point during the driving shift.
However, the trucking industry continues fighting to get these anti-fatigue rules repealed. The trucking industry argues that new rules do not necessarily prevent accidents, though they impose a significant financial hardships on truck drivers and commercial carriers. The trucking industry also has contended that the rules increase the number of tractor-trailers that will be on highways in peak daytime traffic hours.
Despite these contentions, truck driver fatigue has been determined to be a factor in many trucking accidents. The Department of Transportation (DOT) based the new HOS rules on the belief that fatigue constitutes a factor in 13 percent of all trucking accidents based on the Large-Truck Crash Causation Study. Federal regulators also note that driver fatigue might be significantly under-reported because commercial drivers do not want to acknowledge drowsy driving, exposing the driver and trucking company to liability.
Greenberg Stone and Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence
If you have been injured in a Florida trucking accident, Greenberg Stone and Urbano will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.