Truck Accidents: Was the Truck Driver Fatigued?
In the 1940 movie, They Drive By Night, Humphrey Bogart played an overworked partner in a small trucking company trying to make ends meet. Overtired and falling asleep at the wheel, he causes an accident that costs him his right arm. Though a work of fiction, this scene repeats much too often in America's young, unregulated trucking industry with even more devastating results.
Hours of Service regulations
Congressional regulation eventually made our roads a safer place for truck drivers and the rest of us who use the nation's highways. If you are involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, one of the first areas to be investigated should be if the driver complied with the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations set forth by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Most commercial motor vehicle drivers and virtually all tractor-trailer drivers are required to comply with HOS regulations, which require that truck drivers may not drive more than 60 or 70 hours in seven or eight consecutive days. Drivers are usually limited to no more than 11 hours of driving after having ten consecutive hours off duty.
Yet drivers will sometimes violate these rules. Under pressure to make deliveries or pick up shipments, they either decide to or are required to drive on through to get to their shippers on time.
Enforcement of the HOS regulations is by computerized driver logs, which are part of the equipment of every tractor-trailer operating in interstate commerce. When the driver gets into the cab to start driving, the log starts recording his or her driving time. The logs provide an accurate record of just how long a driver has been behind the wheel that day and that week.
State Police will often check the logs when investigating serious accidents. Other collisions are often investigated by local law enforcement agencies that may not know of, or review, the driver's logs.
An attorney experienced with tractor-trailer accidents will know the importance of the logs and other documentation available from both the driver and the trucking company in the event of a lawsuit. Be sure to consult with competent counsel if you are injured by a tractor-trailer.