November 5, 2011

Truck Driver Fatigue

by Rush & Gransee

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Driver fatigue is one of the most common problems on American roadways today. Trucking accidents are frequently the result of a driver exceeding the reasonable and regulated hours of service, causing the driver to become overly fatigued and not fully attentive to the safety of the public roadways. In the 1990’s studies were conducted and the trucking industry recognized that driver fatigue presents a serious and extreme danger to the public; yet, many trucking companies do not follow federal safety regulations regarding driver hours of service in the operation of their tractor-trailers. All too often when a driver becomes fatigued and sleepy they are pressed to continue on to make their delivery schedule before seeking rest. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the commercial driver manual for every state recognize that when a driver is fatigue the only safe action is to stop driving and obtain the necessary rest before continuing to operate an 18 wheeler.

Despite the public safety dangers presented by fatigued drivers, many professional truck drivers falsify logs in order to make it appear as though they are not driving in excess of authorized hours of service. Many trucking companies recognize this problem and turn a blind eye, and impliedly permit drivers to exceed safety limits while recording fewer hours in their official documentation. Not only is falsification of log books a criminal offense, allowing fatigued drivers on the public roadways causes catastrophic accidents that leave families torn apart.

Because a thorough and in-depth investigation is required to trace driver activity and conduct that may not appear to violate the hour of service rules, an experienced trucking lawyer must be consulted. There are methods to trace gasoline purchase receipts, hotel receipts, credit card purchases and forms of documentation that can be utilized to show log book inaccuracies and falsifications. Technology exists that allows trucking companies to install digital recording video cameras in the cabs of the tractor-trailer rigs documenting the behavior of a driver. Knowing that documentary video evidence can exit if rules violations are attempted can have a detouring effective on unsafe driving behavior such as driving while fatigued. Unfortunately only a minority of the trucking companies operating on the public roadways utilize this safety technology.