Commercial trucking companies and their drivers are responsible for the safety of their transports. Commercial trucks pose significant risks of injury and even a wrongful death to other roadway users. They are much larger and heavier than passenger cars, leading to catastrophic collisions. Unfortunately, truck drivers do not always fulfill their responsibility to drive safely. They often engage in dangerous driver behaviors, such as driving while fatigued.
Is Drowsy Driving as Dangerous as Drunk Driving?
Drowsy driving is a deadly driver mistake. Truck driver fatigue is behind hundreds of fatal commercial vehicle accidents every year. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2018, 4,862 fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. involved large trucks. Investigations have shown that about 13 percent of truck accidents are connected to truck driver drowsiness or fatigue.
Studies have shown that driving drowsy is comparable to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, operating a vehicle after not sleeping for 18 hours impairs a driver the same amount as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. Driving after being awake for at least 24 hours is the equivalent of a BAC of 0.10 percent. The legal BAC limit in Texas is 0.08 percent. The legal BAC limit for a commercial driver, however, is only 0.04 percent.
Both drowsy driving and drunk driving place a driver in a state of impairment that can impede the ability to safely control and operate a motor vehicle. Like drugs or alcohol, fatigue can reduce reaction times, affect coordination, weaken the muscles and make a driver less alert. This can increase the risk of a truck driver causing a serious accident, such as a rear-end collision, chain-reaction accident or jackknife accident.
Why Are Truckers More Likely Than Other Drivers to Drive While Fatigued?
Any driver in San Antonio could be guilty of driving while drowsy or fatigued. However, commercial truck drivers are especially notorious for making this mistake. They are more likely to drive while fatigued than most other types of drivers due to the unique conditions of their work environments. Some of the most common causes of truck driver fatigue include:
- Long hours on the road alone
- Reversed sleep schedules
- Physical or mental exertion
- Trouble sleeping/inadequate sleep
- Time changes
- Sleep apnea
- Poor diet or obesity
- Medical conditions
- The use of stimulants such as coffee
Truck driver fatigue is so common that the FMCSA has a rule in place to try to prevent this dangerous driver mistake, known as the hours-of-service (HOS) regulation. The HOS regulation has a maximum number of hours that truck drivers are permitted to be on the road at a time.
No commercial motor vehicle driver may drive beyond 14 hours in a single day. Drivers must also take 30-minute rest breaks after 8 hours of driving time. Many trucking companies, however, encourage their drivers to break HOS rules to make deliveries faster. This can lead to preventable truck accidents.
Who Is Liable for Truck Accidents Caused By Driver Fatigue?
If driver fatigue causes a truck accident in Texas, the person or party most responsible for causing the collision will have to pay for damages. This is how Texas’s tort-based insurance system operates.
Although the drowsy truck driver is technically responsible for his or her dangerous mistake, the rule of vicarious liability may hold a trucking company financially responsible for the collision. Vicarious liability holds employers responsible for the actions of their employees who were performing job-related tasks at the time of an accident.
If a fatigued truck driver was an employee of a trucking company at the time of the wreck, the company could be vicariously liable for damages. The trucking company could also be directly liable if it contributed to the accident by encouraging a driver to violate safety rules. If the driver was an independent owner/operator, however, he or she may be individually liable for the crash.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you believe you were injured in a truck accident caused by truck driver fatigue, contact the San Antonio truck accident attorneys at The Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert, P.C. We offer free and confidential consultations.