More than 750 motorists are killed and another 20,000 suffer personal injuries in truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers each year. The long hours spent behind the wheel of a big rig can be monotonous for even the most proficient of truckers. Fatigue can cause drowsiness, delayed reaction times and inattention, not to mention the risk of a trucker’s simply falling asleep while driving.
Federal regulators have developed hours-of-service regulations that dictate how long a truck driver is allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle during a single shift. However, the increasing number of truck crashes and hours-of-service violations nationwide prompted officials to shorten drivers’ shifts in December 2011, much to the chagrin of profit-driven truck companies.
If you or someone you love was injured or killed in an Oklahoma tractor trailer accident, call the Tulsa truck accident attorneys at the Rode Law Firm today for a quick and detailed consultation free of charge.
It doesn’t take much for our truck accident lawyers to get started on your case. Just answer a few questions by phone and complete a small amount of paperwork. We’ll promptly begin investigating your claim. There is no fee unless we win your case.
We are available 24/7 by calling (918) 599-8880, or you can complete our online form. You won’t pay unless we win your case.
Our truck crash lawyers are well-versed in the state and federal laws governing the trucking industry and are prepared to fight insurance companies, motor carriers, or any other at-fault parties, either during settlement negotiations or at trial.
What You Should Know About Truck Driver Fatigue
A fatigued truck driver is a dangerous truck driver. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 500 of the 3,765 deaths in large truck crashes in 2010 involved an overly tired driver.
Unfortunately, there is no way to know how many of the 4,508 truck crashes that occurred in Oklahoma in 2010 were caused by truck driver fatigue. The state Office of Highway Safety does not include fatigue in its crash data involving large trucks. However, inattention – one of the signs of a fatigued driver, according to researchers – was reported in 601 Oklahoma truck accidents that year.
Fatigue manifests in different ways for different people. Being on the road for a long time can cause sleepiness, headaches, restlessness, body aches, boredom, irritability and concentration problems. Also, many truckers are unable to tell when they are too tired to drive safely. A study on truck driver fatigue conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration found that truckers did not assess their own levels of fatigue correctly based on objective physiological and other measures.
Hours-of-Service Regulations and Violations
In an attempt to reduce the number of deadly truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers, FMCSA established hours-of-service (HOS) requirements (Part 395 of the agency’s Rules and Regulations) several years ago. The rules, which spell out exactly how many hours a shift can be and delineates how many rest breaks a driver must take, are very controversial among members of the trucking industry and lawmakers who feel that they are burdensome, unnecessary and expensive to implement.
However, the U.S. Department of Transportation disagreed. In December 2011, FMCSA amended some of its hours-of-service regulations to provide new limitations on how long a truck driver can legally operate a rig.
The new hours-of-service regulations, which will be effective July 1, 2013, state that:
- A truck driver is limited to a 70-hour work week. Under the old rule, drivers could work up to 82 hours over a seven-day period.
- Truck operators cannot drive a rig after eight hours without taking a 30-minute break. Drivers can take the rest time whenever they choose during the eight-hour period.
- Daily shifts are restricted to 11 hours. That’s the same daily limit that existed under the old rule.
- Truck drivers who reach their 70-hour weekly limit must rest for two nights before resuming their work. FMCSA also has a “restart rule,” which allows drivers to begin their work week after spending 34 consecutive hours off-duty. A restart can be used only once over a seven-day period.
Companies have been found to put pressure on truckers to transport their loads quickly, because their profits depend on timely deliveries. Others may not enforce their hours-of-service regulations even though they know that a truck driver has exceeded the FMCSA limits. Trucking companies who violate the 11-hour daily limit could face penalties of up to $11,000 per offense.
Drivers who fail to comply with hours-of-service rules may be punished with fines of up to $2,750 for each offense under the new rules. In addition to driving longer than they should, some truck operators are guilty of falsifying the log books that they are required to keep in order to record their trips. In an effort to reduce the likelihood of falsifications, FMCSA proposed a rule in 2011 that would mandate electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) for all commercial interstate vehicles. EOBRs track all hours a driver spends behind the wheel. However, the proposal has been challenged in courts and is still not required in the United States.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Injured in a Truck Accident Related to Driver Fatigue?
If you’ve been involved in an Oklahoma truck crash, you may be eligible for damages that will compensate you for your injuries. That’s why you should contact a lawyer who knows about the federal trucking regulations as soon as possible.
Truck companies are protected by high-powered insurance companies and defense lawyers who will quickly jump on a report of a serious crash with injuries or fatalities. Obtaining evidence from the accident scene and other documentation is essential proof in truck accident cases. Some evidence – particularly, records of hours of service – do not have to be kept forever, and it can be difficult to obtain if too much time has passed since your accident.
In addition, an attorney can file legal documents that prevent the truck from being repaired. This is important because repairs could mask important physical evidence from the crash. Skilled tractor trailer lawyers will also consult the best experts to provide testimony about your injuries and what the long-term impact on your quality of life will be like in the months and years following the wreck. Put together, all of this information can help you build a solid case to recover the most favorable and fair award possible.
Tractor Trailer Accident? Contact Our Oklahoma Truck Accident Lawyers Quickly
Truck accidents can have life-changing consequences for victims and their families. Medical expenses and lost wages often create financial hardships that endure for years, especially if you are unable to return to the same level of work that you did before. Don’t delay – contact the Rode Law Firm in Tulsa right away.
For a free consultation, complete our online form or call our office at (918) 599-8880. We can give you a quick assessment and advise you of your legal options. There is no fee unless we win your case.