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Driver Fatigue is a Leading Cause of Trucking Accidents

Statistics from the Fatal Analysis Reporting System show that about 35, 000 fatal trucking accidents take place across the country. About 8% of these accidents involve large commercial trucks, such as rigs. In addition to the large death toll, there are also many trucking accidents that lead to serious injuries, including brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations, burns, and other serious injuries. Although car accidents are more common than trucking accidents, statistics show from the Fatal Analysis Reporting System show that truck collisions are involved in about 46% of traffic-related fatalities.

Obviously, it is important to do everything possible to prevent these tragic accidents. One common cause of trucking accidents which is quite preventable is driver fatigue. Tired truck drivers have slower response times and some even doze off at the wheel, causing trucking accidents. Studies have proven that driving while tired is as dangerous as driving under the influence. The tragic thing about driver fatigue is that it is quite preventable.

Truck collisions involving driver fatigue have not declined, even though the overall rate of trucking accidents has been slowly decreasing. There have been a number of laws instituted which aim to reduce tired driving. For example, federal statues limit the length of time drivers can driver commercial trucks and vans before resting. As well, all drivers must keep a log to show that they are taking adequate rest breaks.

Despite this, truck accidents caused by driver fatigue continue to occur. Many of these accidents occur in the early hours of the morning – between midnight and three in the morning. This may suggest that in addition to getting rest, drivers may also need to respect their body’s natural rhythms and not try to drive when they are usually sleeping.

The federal government has created Hours-of-Service (HOS) laws which set limits on the time commercial truck drivers can drive before taking breaks. HOS was instituted and designed after extensive surveys and scientific studies were conducted to determine safe driving procedures. Currently, HOS rules apply to commercial trucks weighing at least 10,001 lbs. or higher. Only trucks that cross state lines, transport dangerous materials, or transport at least 16 passengers are included under the legislation.

Under these rules, drivers driving products or materials must have a rest period of 10 consecutive hours before driving. Drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours between rest periods. Drivers must receive eight hours of sleep and an additional two hour break under HOS regulations. HOS regulations for passenger-carrying trucks are different. Drivers of these trucks can drive for a maximum of 10 hours before taking a rest break of eight consecutive hours. These drivers must also sleep at least eight hours.