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Truck Driver Fatigue Accident Lawyers

It’s terrible to consider the potential consequences if a commercial truck driver falls asleep behind the wheel. At worst, their negligence can lead to a horrific crash and catastrophic injuries or death for occupants of smaller vehicles. Sadly, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that approximately 8,000 tractor-trailer accidents are related to truck driver fatigue.

You have legal options if you or a loved one were injured or killed by a fatigued truck driver. Nix Patterson’s truck driver fatigue accident lawyers can help.

Why Does Truck Driver Fatigue Occur?

Truck driver fatigue is a top cause of commercial truck accidents. Approximately 13% of big rig drivers are fatigued at the time of an accident, according to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA says truck driver fatigue can be because of insufficient sleep, working too many hours, and mental and physical fatigue that reduces driver performance. Additional factors are:

  • Time of day. Those who drive at night are at the highest risk of accidents. Research proves that fatigue-related truck crashes are likelier between 12 and 6 am. Many truck drivers prefer to drive after sundown because there is less traffic.
  • Number of hours awake. Truck drivers who have been without sleep for 18 hours or more have a significant impairment in their cognitive ability. Some sources state that being awake for more than 18 hours is similar to having a BAC of .08%, the legal limit for passenger drivers in the U.S. So, a trucker on the road after not sleeping for more than 18 hours is as dangerous as a drunk driver.
  • Sleep apnea and other disorders. Up to 80% of sleep disorders are undiagnosed. Sleep apnea and other disorders increase the odds of being in a fatigue-related truck crash.
  • Changing shift schedules. Many truck drivers have schedules that change often. But rotating schedules can lead to more driver fatigue because drivers may need more sleep between shifts.

Truck driver fatigue harms critical functions that truckers must have to drive safely, such as good vision, quick reaction times, judgment, and coordination. A tired truck driver can fail to notice traffic ahead, which can cause a terrifying rear-end crash, such as the 2014 accident that severely injured comedian Tracey Morgan. Or, a trucker can drift into oncoming traffic if he nods off, which can cause a deadly head-on crash.

How Common Are Accidents Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue or Distraction?

Many national studies show that truck driver fatigue is common and often causes severe and fatal accidents. For example:

  • The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that truck driver fatigue is a factor in 40% of all commercial truck accidents.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states that driver fatigue significantly affected 52% of 107 tractor-trailer crashes. In 18% of those accidents, the driver admitted to falling asleep.
  • The FMCSA says that the risk of a big rig crash doubles between the 8th and 10th hour of driving. It doubles again between the 10th and 11th hours.
  • The FMCSA estimates that more than 750 people die, and 20,000 are hurt in truck crashes caused by driver fatigue every year.

Truck driver fatigue and sleep deprivation have similar symptoms to those under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is estimated that 24 hours of no sleep may cause a trucker to be as impaired behind the wheel as an intoxicated person with a BAC of .10, which is well over the legal limit.

What Regulations Are in Place To Prevent Truck Driver Fatigue?

The federal government has implemented Hours of Service (HOS) regulations to address truck driver fatigue. These laws dictate how long truck drivers can drive every day and week. The rules aim to prevent truck driver fatigue accidents and promote public safety. Some of the key HOS provisions are:

  • Truck drivers can only drive up to 11 hours after a 10-hour off-duty rest period
  • Truckers can only be on-duty for up to 14 hours, including driving and other activities related to their jobs
  • Drivers must take a 30-minute break after driving for eight hours.
  • Truckers can only drive up to the 14th consecutive hour after starting work, following an off-duty period of 10 hours
  • Truck drivers can have up to 60 or 70 hours on duty over seven or eight consecutive days

Other federal rules govern how long truckers can work and drive. For instance, the FMCSA requires trucking companies to have fatigue management programs and to give drivers enough rest breaks and time off to ensure they are well rested. Many states also have other requirements related to fatigued drivers and taking breaks.

If a trucker or carrier does not follow federal rules, fines, penalties, and even the trucking company’s operating authority can be suspended. Drivers and carriers must comply with hour-of-service regulations to promote safety on America’s roads to avoid financial and legal penalties.

How Truckers Can Comply With HOS Rules

There are several ways that truck drivers can ensure they follow hour-of-service rules and stay safe while driving:

  • Maintain accurate driving logs. All drivers should use an electronic logging device (ELD) or paper logbook to keep track of their driving hours. All on-duty time should be recorded, as well as rest breaks and driving time.
  • Plan driving routes and rest breaks. Before driving, the driver should plan his route and pinpoint places to take required rest breaks. You can use mobile apps and other technology tools to plan the route and find places to stop safely.
  • Take all required breaks. Drivers must take a 30-minute rest stop after driving for eight hours and 10 hours of duty before the next shift.
  • Communicate with your carrier. Report any fatigue-related issues to your manager or dispatcher. Trucking companies must provide enough rest time for drivers, and it is against the law for them to force drivers to violate hours-of-service rules.

Compensation for Injuries Caused By Fatigued Truck Drivers

If a tired driver injured you or a loved one, the driver, carrier, or a third party could be liable for your damages. Insurance companies representing the various potential at-fault parties could compensate you for the costs and effects of truck accident injuries via the personal injury claim process. Some compensation you could be entitled to include:

  • Current and future medical bills
  • Current and future lost earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of the ability to enjoy life
  • In the case of wrongful death, burial and funeral costs, medical expenses, loss of inheritance, loss of income, etc.

Contact an Experienced Truck Driver Fatigue Accident Lawyer

If a negligent, fatigued truck driver seriously injured you or someone you love, you may be entitled to compensation. You could receive funds for your medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. Our fatigued truck driver injury team at Nix Patterson understands the pain and frustration of being injured because of someone’s negligence, so please contact us now. Remember that the initial consultation is free, and you only pay legal fees if we obtain a settlement or favorable verdict in court.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. Call 512.328.5333 or complete the form below. 

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