Many years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted new hours of service rules in an attempt to reduce the number of crashes caused by truck driver fatigue. These rules outline the number of hours a truck driver can be on the road, when they must take breaks, and how long they must remain off of the road before taking another trip.
Unfortunately, not all truck drivers and trucking companies comply with these rules. According to the FMCSA, fatigued truck drivers cause approximately 1.5% of fatal truck accidents every year. Any time a truck is involved in a crash, it can result in severe and catastrophic injuries. When a driver is fatigued and could not react right away, those injuries can be even worse. If you or a loved one has been injured, it is critical to speak to a Baton Rouge truck accident attorney.
How to Prove Truck Driver Fatigue
Unlike when testing for drugs or alcohol in the system, law enforcement does not have any test that can determine when an accident was caused by truck driver fatigue. Investigators must then use other methods to determine if a truck driver was drowsy or if they fell asleep. Some factors law enforcement may take into consideration are as follows:
- Driving late at night
- The accident only involved the truck that left the road
- There is no evidence to suggest that the truck driver tried to prevent the crash, such as skid marks on the road
Investigators may also still perform a breath test or other chemical test to determine if there was alcohol in the truck driver’s system. Alcohol can make a person feel even more tired more quickly, so even if the test does not prove the trucker was impaired, it may still show that the truck driver was fatigued.
For a number of years, truck drivers have also had to log the number of hours they spent on the road. Historically, they did this manually, which made the logs easy to forge and manipulate. Today, fortunately, most trucks on the road are equipped with electronic logging devices (ELDs). This makes it much more difficult for truckers and trucking companies to change the numbers manually.
What are the Hours of Service Rules?
There are many rules set out by the FMCSA that outline how long a truck driver can remain on the road. The hours of service rules apply mainly to long-distance drivers, and they are as follows:
- Truck drivers can only drive for a maximum of 11 hours after having 10 hours off.
- Truck drivers cannot drive after working for 14 hours following a period of being off duty for 10 hours. If a break is taken during the 14 hours, it does not extend the 14-hour period.
- Truckers can take one long ten-hour break, or they can divide the time into two separate times. However, one of these times must be at least two hours, and seven of those hours must have been spent in the berth of the truck. The two times must add up to at least 10 hours.
- For every eight hours of driving, truck drivers must rest for at least 30 minutes. Drivers can spend that break resting in their cab or outside of the truck.
- Truck drivers cannot be on the road for more than 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days. The seven or eight-day period restarts after the trucker has taken 34 hours off.
- If truckers encounter inclement weather or other adverse conditions, they can extend the 14-hour period by a maximum of two hours.
Who is Liable for a Crash Caused by Truck Driver Fatigue?
In the majority of cases, the truck driver who drove while fatigued is liable for any accident they caused. However, there are times when the trucking company may also be found liable. Trucking companies often provide incentives for truck drivers to remain on the road longer than the law allows. They do this so they can make more deliveries in shorter periods of time and increase their profits.
It is important to identify all liable parties. Each liable party will have insurance coverage, but those policies all have limits, or a maximum they will pay. By identifying all liable parties, you can receive damages from each insurance company and maximize your claim.
Our Truck Accident Lawyers in Baton Rouge Can Help After a Fatigued Driving Accident
At Big River Trial Attorneys, our Baton Rouge truck accident lawyers can determine if your injuries were caused by fatigued driving and prove your case so you obtain the full and fair compensation you deserve. Call us now at (225) 963-9638 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.