When large trucks wreck into smaller cars, the injuries to the car driver are often catastrophic. Trucks can weigh up to 30 times more than passenger cars. Over 3,800 people died in large truck crashes in 2015. Of those deaths, 69 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists.
Large trucks can be extremely dangerous to other drivers on the road, and their operations requires special knowledge and skill. Often times, truck wrecks can be caused because the driver of the truck did not follow the appropriate regulations or because the driver did not receive the appropriate training. Truck drivers are required to attain a commercial driver’s license. Additionally, truck drivers and trucking companies have to comply with a number of regulations to make sure that they are safe on the road. Many of these responsibilities are spelled out in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMSCR”). For example, trucking companies have a responsibility to make sure that their drivers are adequately trained and to monitor their performance on the road. Further, truck drivers are required by federal law to document pre-trip and post-trip inspections of their trucks. They must identify unsafe conditions on the truck and correct them before driving. A truck driver has a responsibility to stop driving when they are ill or fatigued. And they absolutely are not allowed to drive while under the influence of alcohol or controlled drugs.
The amount of time that a driver can spend behind the wheel is also limited by Hours of Service (HOS) regulations that are found in part 395 of the FMSCR. These rules set a hard limit on the amount of time that a driver can spend on the road on a daily and weekly basis. For example, a truck driver may only drive for 11 hours out of a 14 hour shift. The driving times must be logged as truthfully and accurately as possible. The time truck drivers spend on the road is limited to make sure that they are alert and safe drivers.
Unfortunately, violations of HOS is one of the most common violations that are written up by law enforcement. Truck drivers are usually do not get paid for the time they are not driving. Instead, they get paid by the mile. That means that they make more money by driving faster and longer distances than they should. Trucking is also a very competitive, cut-throat industry. They are under significant pressure to drive as many miles as possible.
Why does it matter if a driver spends more than 11 hours on the road? When a driver is fatigued, their driving becomes dangerously impaired. The driver may experience what is known as a microsleep. A microsleep is a brief episode of a loss of attention associated with events such as blank stare, head snapping, prolonged eye closure, and other symptoms. This condition may last for several seconds to several minutes, and the driver may not even realize that it happened. And if drivers regularly do not get enough sleep, they may acquire what is known as a sleep debt. A normal person requires about eight hour of sleep per night. Sleep loss that occurs over a period of several days creates a cumulative sleep debt. An average person who obtains only four hours of sleep for three nights has a cumulative sleep debt of 12 hours. At least one study has found that the effect of a sleep debt stick around even after three nights of full sleep.
These are just some of the complications that arise in a truck accident case. If you were injured in a trucking accident that was not your fault, then the driver and the trucking company may be held responsible. No two trucking wrecks are identical. They often involve complex federal and state regulations. You should always seek the advice of an attorney about your specific situation.