Drowsy Truck Driver Rules Changes Backfire
During and after the pandemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rolled back many hours of service safety laws. Despite these changes, the number of violations increased.
The agency did not offer an explanation for the spike in HOS and HOS out-of-service driver violations, but suggested the COVID-19 pandemic could have influenced the outcome.
Jeremy Disbrow, a roadside inspection specialist with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, went even further to excuse trucker misconduct. “I’m cautious to draw conclusions because it’s one of those things where there was too much going on at the same time to make a determination on what impacted what. Did the violations increase? Absolutely, they did. But is it because of the new hours-of-service requirements? I don’t know that that’s it.”
Truck Driver Fatigue
Most truckers, and most drivers in general, would never drink a few beers and then get behind the wheel. But they have no problem driving while fatigued, even though alcohol and fatigue have roughly the same effect on the brain and body. More on that below. In fact, many truckers treat long hours like a badge of honor.
These effects include clouded judgment and slow reflexes. Clouded judgment causes truckers to take unnecessary risks behind the wheel, like following too closely or turning unsafely. Because fatigue slows motor skills, they cannot react quickly to changing road and traffic situations. To put it another way, driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s well above the legal limit for commercial drivers in Texas.
HOS violations aren’t the only evidence of fatigue available to a Sugar Land personal injury lawyer. The time of day or night, as well as the truck driver’s medical records, could also be relevant.
Circadian rhythm fatigue is even more common than HOS-related fatigue. Most people are naturally drowsy late at night and early in the morning. That’s especially true if their work schedules have recently changed or they sleep in something like a sleeper berth instead of their own beds.
A Missouri City personal injury lawyer uses medical records to prove the driver had sleep apnea. This condition, which is common among overweight people who sit most of the day, closes the primary airway at night. When these individuals can’t breathe well, they wake up. So, sleep apnea robs people of deep, restorative sleep. They wake up fatigued.
On a related note, many truck drivers use caffeine, amphetamines, and other drugs to counteract the effects of fatigue. These drugs don’t address the aforementioned fatigue effects. They just help truckers feel more alert for a while. Additionally, when these drugs wear off, users crash suddenly and violently.
Your Claim for Damages
We mentioned the BAC level for truck drivers above. Observant readers probably took note of the fact that the commercial driver BAC level is lower than the noncommercial BAC level in Texas. This lower limit reflects the higher standard of care that applies to truck drivers.
Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. Most truck drivers have a duty of utmost care. They must go above and beyond to prevent crashes.
The higher duty of care makes it easier to prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, a little evidence about fatigue, which was discussed above, goes a long way.
Damages in a negligence case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.
Connect With a Hard-Hitting Harris County Attorney
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Missouri City, contact the Henrietta Ezeoke Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.