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Operating a commercial truck requires a driver’s full attention and skill. Unfortunately, the long hours and stress of handling a big rig can easily cause truck drivers to become drowsy or fatigued behind the wheel, with potentially disastrous consequences.
Although federal and state regulations limit drivers’ hours on duty, these rules are not always enough to prevent truck drivers from driving while fatigued. Drowsy truck driving puts everyone at risk of severe harm if a collision occurs.
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a truck crash caused by driver fatigue, turn to the legal team of Derek L. Hall, PC. For 25 years, Mississippi personal injury attorney Derek Hall has worked tirelessly to advocate for the rights and interests of his clients. Our law firm has a proven track record of securing the full compensation our clients need, both through settlements and at trial.
You can expect direct contact with your attorney and prompt responses to your calls and emails when you work with us. We strive to offer honest legal advice and aggressively fight for maximum compensation on your behalf.
Call or contact us today for a free consultation with a Jackson, MS truck accident lawyer.
The Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
Operating an 18-wheeler often requires long hours on the road, sometimes for several days at a time. At some point, truck driver fatigue is almost a certainty.
In many ways, drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That’s because fatigue impairs the mental faculties similarly.
Fatigued truck drivers often suffer from reduced reaction times and impaired visual perception and judgment. This can make it more difficult for them to properly control their rigs or safely react to emergencies on the road.
How Truck Driver Fatigue Contributes to Accidents
The physical and mental effects of fatigued driving can easily lead to truck accidents. Tired drivers may cause crashes due to:
- Nodding off or having intermittent periods of unconsciousness that last for a few seconds (“microsleep”)
- Delayed reaction times
- Impaired judgment
- Decreased inhibition
- Increased risk-taking behaviors
- Experiencing tunnel vision or altered perception of the roadway
- Engaging in “automatic” behavior without regard to the present road conditions
- Poor memory, including forgetting the previous few minutes or miles
These effects of fatigue may cause a truck driver to drift across lanes or over the centerline, change lanes without signaling or checking mirrors, drive too fast, or run red lights and stop signs.
FMCSA Hours of Service Rules
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publishes rules that limit the number of hours that truck drivers can spend on duty (including duties in preparation to drive) and behind the wheel. Truck driver hours of service regulations dictate that:
- Drivers may drive no more than 11 total hours after spending at least 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Truckers cannot drive after the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty following an off-duty period of at least 10 consecutive hours.
- Truck drivers can extend these driving/on-duty limits by up to two hours when driving in adverse conditions that prevent them from safely stopping to rest.
- Drivers must take a break of at least 30 minutes after spending eight hours driving without a break. This break may include on-duty non-driving tasks, off-duty time, sleeper berth time, or any combination.
- Truckers cannot drive more than 60 cumulative hours in any consecutive seven-day period or more than 70 cumulative hours in any consecutive eight-day period. These seven/eight-day periods reset after spending at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
- Drivers can split their required 10-hour off-duty period into one off-duty period of at least two hours in or out of the sleeper berth and at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. Drivers must spend at least 10 total hours in the sleeper berth.
Truck drivers are exempt from the hours-of-service rules if they only operate within a 150-air mile radius of their work reporting location and return to their work reporting location within 14 consecutive hours of coming on duty.
Penalties for Violating FMCSA Hours of Service Rules
Truck drivers must keep logs of their hours on duty, behind the wheel, off duty, and in the sleeper berth. In addition, large commercial trucks must be equipped with electronic devices to allow drivers to record their hours. Trucking companies must keep these logs for up to six months.
Law enforcement officers can inspect a truck driver’s logs during a traffic stop or at mandatory weigh stations. The U.S. Department of Transportation can also audit a trucking company’s driver logs. If law enforcement officers find a driver has violated the hours-of-service rules, they can place the driver and their truck “out of service” until they meet the off-duty and sleeper berth requirements to return to duty.
In addition to placing drivers out of service, local or state police can ticket or fine a fatigued driver and their trucking company. The DOT can also impose a fine of up to $15,000 for hours-of-service violations that contribute to a truck accident or cargo spill.
Violations also result in “points” being applied to a truck driver’s and trucking company’s safety scores. A pattern of violations can result in downgrading a driver’s or trucking company’s safety rating. Willful violations may result in criminal fines or the loss of a driver’s CDL or a trucking company’s operating certificate.
In addition, people injured in accidents with a fatigued truck driver may be entitled to civil compensation for their losses. This money could come through a personal injury lawsuit against the truck driver, trucking company, and other parties who contributed to the crash.
Contact Our Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys in Jackson, MS Today
If you’ve been hurt in a tractor-trailer crash caused by a fatigued truck driver in Mississippi, you need an experienced truck accident lawyer to stand up for your rights and fight for the justice and results you deserve. Contact Derek L. Hall, PC for a free initial consultation today.