Truck Driver Fatigue and Employer Coercion: A Deadly Pairing
Every long-haul trucker has struggled with fatigue at some point. The long hours, the constant hum of the tires and engine, the repetitive scenery — practically every aspect of driving a truck seems designed to lull your brain into a sedated state, especially if you’re running on a limited amount of sleep.
Driver fatigue is a serious highway safety issue, too. Although experts have struggled to put together accurate statistics — mainly due to the difficulty of getting drivers to self-report fatigue — the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has repeatedly said that fatigue is a major cause of deadly trucking accidents. Some experts have suggested that driver fatigue contributes to 40% of all truck crashes or more.
Know and Recognize the Signs of Fatigue
Numerous studies have shown that driving while drowsy can impair drivers just as much as driving while intoxicated. Unlike with intoxicated driving, though, far too many drivers believe that a little bit of fatigue is normal while driving and don’t recognize that their performance is impaired. The first step toward preventing fatigued driving, then, is recognizing the warning signs that you’re too tired to continue driving.
Your driving abilities may be dangerously impaired if you start to experience any of the following symptoms of fatigue behind the wheel:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming or having wandering or disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven
- Missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
If you experience any of these fatigue warning signs, it’s critical for your safety and the safety of others on the road that you stop driving immediately and get some rest. When it comes to fighting fatigue, there’s truly no substitute for sleep — quick-fix remedies like caffeine pills, loud music, or rolling down the window won’t improve your performance or lower your risk for a crash if you’re driving drowsy.
Truck Driver Fatigue and Employer Coercion
Truck drivers hate the sinking feeling of driving through exhaustion just as much as anyone else on the road. Most often, truckers press on and continue driving in a fatigued state because they fear retribution from their employer if they don’t make a deadline. Some unscrupulous employers even pressure truck drivers to routinely violate hours-of-service regulations and drive fatigued as a matter of procedure just so the company can squeeze out extra profit.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines such behaviors as employer coercion, which is against the law. More specifically, coercion is defined by the FMCSA as occurring “when a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary threatens to withhold work from, take employment action against, or punish a driver for refusing to operate in violation of” federal trucking regulations, including the hours-of-service regulations that are designed to prevent fatigued driving.
Truck drivers don’t need to be at risk of violating hours-of-service regulations in order to take a potentially life-saving rest break, either. FMCSA regulations stipulate that a motor carrier can’t punish a driver for reporting and refusing to perform any task that creates unsafe driving conditions — which certainly includes driving while fatigued.
Despite the FMCSA’s protections against coercion, though, many truck drivers hesitate to report trucking companies because they fear reprisal. The FMCSA understands this concern, which is why they allow anonymous reporting of safety violations. Drivers can report an unsafe trucking company by calling the toll-free reporting at hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (368-7238), or by filing a complaint online at the FMCA’s National Consumer Complaint Database page.
The Law Offices of Morgan Adams: Advocates for Injured Truckers
Even the most attentive and responsible truck drivers can suffer life-changing injuries when other drivers engage in negligent behavior like driving while drowsy. The Truck Wreck Justice team at Truck Wreck Justice believes injured truckers deserve respect, support, and fierce advocacy, and we dedicate ourselves to providing both the legal and emotional help they need.
If you’re a commercial truck driver and you’ve been injured in a trucking accident, Attorney Morgan Adams has years of experience representing hurt truckers and is ready to discuss your case and legal options right away at no risk to you. Call our offices today at 866-580-HURT (4878) or fill out the contact form on our website and we’ll get in touch to schedule a free consultation as soon as possible.
Coercion. (2016, February 5). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/coercion
Warning signs. (n.d.). DrowsyDriving.org. Retrieved from http://drowsydriving.org/about/warning-signs/