Truck Driver Fatigue a Common Factor in Tractor-Trailer Crashes

Tractor Trailer accident with truck flipped over.

Despite rules limiting the amount of time that commercial truck drivers can spend on the road, such rules are easy to dodge, and fatigue remains a leading factor in large truck and tractor-trailer accidents. Authorities recently released the findings of an investigation into the accident which resulted in the death of comedian Jimmy Mack of Peekskill, NY. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the crash, involving a limo bus containing Mack, comedian Tracy Morgan and several other individuals, and a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer being driven by Kevin Roper. The NTSB determined, based on skid marks on the highway and the impact of the crash, that Roper was traveling at above the posted speed limit when the accident occurred. The NTSB concluded that if Roper had been driving slower when he began to brake, he could have stopped his truck in time to avoid the crash. The NTSB also determined that Roper’s driving logs showing that he had been driving for 13 hours were inaccurate, and he was instead believed to have been on the road for 28 straight hours. Roper did not speak to the NTSB for its report, and is scheduled to stand trial based on the accident later this year.

Hours of service rules for commercial truck drivers are a matter of contentious debate, and can have a big impact on drivers of passenger vehicles, whether or not they realize it. Research shows that 25% of multi-vehicle accidents on highways involve tractor trailers or other large trucks, and that fatigue is a major cause of large truck driver error. Under the current federal rules governing commercial truckers, drivers are permitted to be on duty for 14 hours each day, of which only 11 hours can be spent driving. The other three hours may be used taking a mandatory 30 minute break, as well as loading and unloading cargo. A trucker can drive for a maximum of 8 hours before he or she must stop for 30 minutes, and a driver must take at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty in between 14-hour shifts.

Even if drivers were following these rules closely, their days would be long and fatiguing. Drivers are required to keep a log of their hours, and may be required to turn over these logs to authorities in the case of an accident or random inspection. Currently, while many trucks are equipped with electronic logging mechanisms that automatically record how many hours a truck is on the road, drivers are still permitted to use paper logs, which are easy to falsify, making enforcement of these rules challenging. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has long been considering implementing a rule that would mandate electronic logs, but it has not yet done so.

If you have been injured in an accident with a semi truck or tractor-trailer, find an attorney who understands how to litigate and win against big transportation and trucking companies. Contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Basch & Keegan for a free consultation on your truck accident case, at (845) 338-8884.