Truck driver fatigue is a serious problem on the roads, highways, and other freight corridors of the United States. Truck drivers are often pushed to their physical and mental limits as they haul their freight across the country, and many suffer chronic fatigue and drowsiness as a result. Even with hours-of-service regulations keeping drivers from driving more than 11 hours at a time when carrying freight, many drivers in the trucking industry still experience fatigue, which directly contributes to an increased risk of collision with passenger vehicles.
What causes truck driver fatigue?
It’s obvious that driving without adequate sleep can cause a truck driver to feel drowsy behind the wheel, as can driving for too long without a break. However, there are a number of other causes that can result in big rig driver fatigue.
Part of the recovery after sickness is resting and letting the body heal. For a trucker, however, their schedule might not allow for the rest necessary to properly recover from their illness, leading to fatigue.
Many medications, both over-the-counter and by prescription, list drowsiness as a potential side-effect. Medications can also cause confusion and other conditions that can affect driving ability. Even though these side-effects, especially those related to drowsiness, are listed on the bottle, truck drivers sometimes disregard them in order to make a deadline or seek relief from pain or other symptoms. In addition, different people react to medications in different ways, so it can be hard to tell which drugs lead to drowsy driving.
Fifty percent of truckers around the world admit to the use of alcohol. That rate is even higher in the United States, and of course, alcohol and drug use often leads to fatigue behind the wheel, in addition to drunk driving being a crime in and of itself.
Working unusual shifts
Truck drivers work at all hours of the day or night, especially if they trade shifts with another driver to deliver the freight on time. If the driver takes a shift they’re not used to, their body might be ready to sleep when they’re in the middle of driving a load on the highway.
Adding to these issues is the fact that most drivers are paid by the mile instead of by the hour, which incentivizes fatigued driving. In addition, unrealistic delivery deadlines can add even more pressure to drive tired, which increases a driver’s risk of accident.
Signs of truck driver fatigue
If you’re driving near a tractor trailer, be alert for the signs of fatigue:
- If the truck is weaving in and out of their lane, or into oncoming traffic lanes, it’s highly possible they’re fatigued or otherwise impaired.
- Egregious errors in judgment, such as pulling in front of heavy traffic or cutting people off, could also be a sign of fatigue.
- Even longer reaction time than is expected for a truck. Trucks already take more time to change speed than passenger cars, due to their much greater weight.
- If you’re in an accident and exchange information with the truck driver, their level of fatigue might be noticeable in their speech or behavior.
If you notice signs of fatigue, make sure to mention those to the police on the scene—while police reports aren’t conclusive evidence of the state of the driver, they can add to the case. It’s also important to consult an experienced truck accident lawyer if you or a loved one was harmed or killed in the accident. Truck accident causes are complex and often require investigations.
Truck driver fatigue is not a defense
If you’ve been hit by a drowsy truck driver, remember that their fatigue is not a defense for their behavior. Fatigued driving can be just as, if not more, dangerous than drunk driving, and if you’ve been hit by a big truck for any reason, you need legal counsel to help you receive your just compensation.
After you’ve been involved in a large truck crash, call Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys for a free consultation as to the facts of your case. We have decades of experience helping Louisiana residents receive the compensation they need to heal from their injuries after a truck accident. With locations in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, Gonzales, Hammond, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, Shreveport, and Zachary, our truck accident lawyers are here for you.