Road safety experts say that fatigue plays a role in at least 100,000 motor vehicle accidents every year around the country. Drowsiness is an especially pressing concern in the logistics sector because commercial vehicles weigh as much as 80,000 pounds and can cause catastrophic damage when they crash. The competitive and time-sensitive nature of the industry often compounds the dangers by putting great pressure on truck drivers to complete their journeys quickly.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration responded to this threat by putting hours of service regulations into place that put strict limits on the amount of time that truck drivers can spend behind the wheel before rest becomes mandatory. The rules require truck drivers to rest for at least 10 hours before starting shifts that can be no longer than 11 hours, but road safety advocates claim that they are often ignored and trucking companies sometimes encourage this behavior by offering incentives to drivers who deliver their loads ahead of schedule.
Accidents involving drowsy truck drivers often occur at highway speeds and claim lives or cause life-changing injuries. This is because fatigued drivers have slower reaction times and sleeping drivers take no evasive action at all. Experts say that regulations must be strictly enforced because studies have found that most of the common techniques drivers employ to combat drowsiness, such as drinking coffee, opening a window, turning up the stereo or taking a brief rest, are ineffective.
Attorneys may review hours of service records carefully when their clients may have been injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a fatigued truck driver. Trucking companies have a duty of care to other road users, and attorneys could argue that encouraging their drivers to ignore federal safety regulations by offering them bonuses violates this duty.