Driver Fatigue Remains a Leading Cause of Trucking Accidents
Fatigue: A Fatal Problem in Trucking
There are many reasons why trucking accidents happen, but truck driver fatigue is one of the most significant—and preventable—among them. Experts estimate that fatigue accounts for as many as 35 to 40 percent of all trucking accidents, yet some truck drivers continue to violate hours-of-service (HOS) safety regulations that were put in place to help fight fatigue, and the trucking industry is simultaneously lobbying to relax existing safety rules.
As one example, industry groups including the American Trucking Associations recently lobbied Congress to approve a provision in an FAA bill that would have exempted truck drivers from state laws mandating meal and rest breaks for workers. Other groups, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Citizens for Safe and Reliable Highways, opposed the provision on safety grounds.
“It is reprehensible that truck safety rules are under attack in this aviation reform bill when large truck crashes are responsible for killing nearly 4,000 people and injuring 100,000 more annually,” the groups wrote in a joint letter to House committee leaders.
Although the trucking provision attracted Republican support in the U.S. House of Representatives, opposition from Democrats and the safety groups eventually led to the larger FAA bill being placed on hold, and when the bill later appeared in the Senate, it did not contain the controversial trucking provision.
Regulatory Trucking Reform: An Ongoing Battle
Creating effective rules that combat driver fatigue has posed a continual challenge for regulatory agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In its 2006 “Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” the FMCSA wrote:
“Driver fatigue has been identified as an important crash cause [in large trucking accidents]. It is known that many drivers drive while fatigued, but accurate estimates are not available. Hours of service regulations that attempt to reduce fatigue are highly controversial and widely violated.”
A 2014 article on truck driver fatigue in The New York Times showed that this problem persists today and that trucking companies and industry groups continue to fight against regulatory reform, arguing that Washington lawmakers “can’t regulate sleep.” These efforts included a 2014 lobbying push to repeal federal break rules that effectively reduced the maximum work week for truckers to 70 hours, down from 82. In a letter to Congress that year, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx urged Congress to resist this effort, saying that an 82-hour work week for truckers was “unsafe” and would “put lives at risk.”
Safety advocates who were interviewed for The New York Times article noted that fatigue is a difficult phenomenon to document with hard data because self-reporting is usually the only way to gather information about fatigue, and truck drivers—who frequently work grueling schedules in order to meet stringent deadlines—often have major workplace incentives to downplay the problem and continue logging maximum mileage.
“Until we have a blood test for determining fatigue, all reports are likely going to underreport fatigue, because the dead don’t speak and the living often plead the Fifth, especially if they are facing criminal charges,” National Safety Council President Deborah A.P. Hersman told the Times.
Despite the lack of concrete data on trucker fatigue, almost all safety groups, regulatory agencies, and lawmakers agree that it is a serious and ongoing safety hazard for the trucking industry and everyone on the road—one that will require full cooperation (rather than maintaining “business as usual”) from trucking companies and industry groups if serious strides are to be made toward a solution.
Contact Truck Wreck Justice If You’ve Been Injured in a Trucking Accident
If you or a loved one has been injured by a commercial vehicle due to driver fatigue or any other form of negligence, Truck Wreck Justice Attorney Morgan Adams can help. With years of experience and a sole focus on commercial vehicle cases, Morgan Adams has the skill and experience required to help you navigate the complex legal issues surrounding a trucking accident.
Please contact Truck Wreck Justice at (432) 265-2020 or fill out our online contact form if you are seeking legal representation or assistance. We offer free consultations to help you gain a better understanding of your situation, and we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you won’t pay for fees or case expenses unless you get the justice you deserve.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (2006, January). Large truck crash causation study (LTCCS) analysis series: Using LTCCS data for statistical analyses of crash risk. Publication No. FMCSA-RI-05-037. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-ltccs-analysis-series-using-ltccs
Foxx, A. (2014, December 8). Why we care about truck driver fatigue. Fast Lane: The Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.transportation.gov/fastlane/why-we-care-about-truck-driver-fatigue
Jansen, B. (2016, February 25). Democrats fight trucking provision in FAA bill. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/02/25/democrats-fight-trucking-provision-faa-bill/80933494/
Mouawad, J., & Harris, E. A. (2014, June 16). Truckers resist rules on sleep, despite risks of drowsy driving. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/17/business/truckers-resist-rules-on-sleep-despite-risks-of-drowsy-driving.html
Mulero, E. (2016, February 26). Trucking provision absent from Senate’s FAA reform bill. Transport Topics. Retrieved from http://www.ttnews.com/articles/basetemplate.aspx?storyid=41169