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The Dangers Of Truckers And Driver Fatigue


Sharing the road with large trucks can be frightening. There seems to be no shortage of stories of inattentive or overly tired drivers running other motorists off the road or causing collisions. Given the size of these big rigs and the amount of time their drivers spend behind the wheel, it’s no wonder they can be so dangerous. Regardless of how cautious a trucker may be, the fact that they are paid by the mile often means that they are incentivized to push beyond their limits. As a result, serious fatigue may set in and hinder attentiveness and reaction time. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that about 20,000 people suffer injuries as a result of fatigued truck drivers every year. They also report several other surprising statistics, including:

  • In 1999, large trucks represented only 3 percent of all registered vehicles, yet they were responsible for 13 percent of all passenger vehicle deaths.
  • According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver fatigue is a factor in up to 40 percent of all accidents involving large, commercial trucks.
  • The risk of an accident quadruples between a trucker’s eighth and eleventh hour of driving.

Of course, a problem of this scale has not gone overlooked. Years of legislation, negotiation, and litigation ultimately led to finalized revisions of hours of service (HOS) rules for truckers in July of 2013. These new rules aim to limit the amount of consecutive hours truck drivers spend on the road and can result in hefty penalties when broken. These are just a few of the revised limitations:

  • Drivers must take a “34 Hour Restart” after having spent 60/70 hours on duty during a period of 7/8 days. Once these 34 off duty hours are complete, the driver may begin a new week. With the latest rule change, this 34 hour restart must now also include two periods between the hours of 1AM and 5AM.
  • The amount of consecutive hours allowed to be driven is now 14 for all property carrying drivers and 15 hours for all passenger carrying drivers. Following these periods, a minimum time of 8-10 off duty hours respectively must be taken.
  • A 30 minute break is required after 8 hours on duty.

As is typical of any major legislative change, these new provisions have been met with some backlash. A lawsuit filed by the American Trucking Associations stated that the additional administrative and training requirements could cost the industry up to $320 million, as well as lengthen delivery times to customers. Despite the criticism, thousands of injuries and nearly 750 deaths due to trucker fatigue each year clearly point to the necessity of change. With the implementation of these new regulations, we hope to see these rates drop drastically as our roads become safer for all.

If you have been the victim of an accident caused by trucker fatigue in Louisiana, contact Spencer Calahan Injury Lawyers. Personal injury due to truck accidents is a primary focus of our practice, and our knowledgeable attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience. Simply click here to request a free evaluation of your case in Baton Rouge, or call our office directly at (225) 387-2323.