Can you think of anything more dangerous than the driver of an 80 thousand pound tractor trailer rig falling asleep at the wheel? Since the 1930s federal regulations have restricted the hours that a commercial truck driver can work without rest or sleep. Today, these regulations are contained in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s “hours of service” rules. (HOS rules)
The purpose of the HOS rules is to prevent deadly accidents. It is common sense that a drowsy or sleepy driver constitutes a danger to everybody else on the road. Commercial truck drivers are prohibited from driving more than 11 hours or driving after having been on duty for 14 hours. There is also a weekly rule that prohibits commercial truckers from driving over 70 hours during one work week. This is an oversimplification of the HOS rules, but you get the idea.
Unfortunately, most truck drivers are paid by the mile and not by the hour, therefore, there is a natural temptation for truck drivers to ignore these rules. In fact, the trucking industry has long resisted any regulation that restricts the time that a driver can spend behind the wheel. That is understandable, since these restrictions can cost truck drivers money.
Nevertheless, because drowsy driving is a leading cause of highway fatalities and serious injuries, it is necessary for these rules to be kept in place and properly policed. All commercial drivers are required to keep a log book to document their driving history. It is very easy to falsify the information contained in a log book. Some companies have started using something called an electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) in place of a log book. An EOBR is much more difficult to falsify.
More than 30,000 people a year die on highways and roads in car and truck accidents. One in seven of these are accidents involve large trucks. Several years ago, a National Transportation Safety Board study concluded that fatigue played a role in 31 percent of the cases, more than alcohol or drugs. No one should get behind the wheel when they are sleepy or drowsy and that includes both drivers of passenger vehicles and drivers of commercial trucks. Unfortunately, sometimes this happens and with very tragic results. Here at Jinks, Crow & Dickson, the attorneys who specialize in handling cases involving large heavy trucks are well versed in the federal regulations that restrict the hours of service that a truck driver can work before resting or sleeping. We have found that proof relating to violations to those hours of service rules can be edifying to the court and to the jury in helping to get to the truth of what happened in any particularly crash. We will continue to passionately and diligently represent our clients in these types of cases, hoping, of course, that these tragic accidents won’t happen at all. However, with the increasing number of motor vehicles of all types on the roadways it is likely that these horrible accidents will happen. Please drive defensively and never get behind the wheel of a car or truck if you are drowsy or sleepy.