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Truck Accidents - Truck Driver Fatigue

Robert Karns

One of the major causes of truck accidents is that of truck driver fatigue. As these large tractor trailer trucks share the roadway with much smaller passenger vehicles, everyone on the road is at risk for truck driver fatigue.

When a crash occurs between a large tractor trailer truck and a much smaller passenger vehicle because of truck driver fatigue the results are disastrous and lives are lost and or ruined forever.

There are two main causes of truck driver fatigue:

  • A lack of sleep due to sleep disorders including sleep apnea.
  • Driving too many hours without the proper rest and relaxation in between - hours of service.

Sleep Apnea - Is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea - Caused by a blockage of the airway usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep.
  • Central sleep apnea - The airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe.
  • Mixed sleep apnea - Is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea causes fragmented and very poor quality sleep. Risk factors include being male, overweight and over the age of 40.

A truck driver with sleep apnea can cause serious crashes due to fatigue putting everyone on the roadway at risk. Congress passed a bill compelling the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that governs commercial trucks to write a regulation covering sleep disorders including sleep apnea rather than issuing a guidance.

Hours of service - The FMCSA has regulations regarding hours of service (HOS) as truck drivers that work excessive hours without the proper rest and relaxation suffer from fatigue causing crashes.

The hours of service regulations by the FMCSA govern how many hours a commercial truck driver can drive, govern rest breaks, govern how many consecutive days a truck driver can drive, and also govern the usage of sleeper berths.

In addition, the FMCSA requires the truck driver to maintain a drivers log in order that the hours of service can be recorded and, if necessary, examined.

If the cause of a truck accident has been found to be truck driver fatigue then it must be determined if the truck driver had a sleep disorder or violated the HOS to determine what parties are liable in addition to the truck driver such as the trucking company.

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