Why are so many commercial truckers driving while exhausted?

| Apr 6, 2020 | Trucking |

There are certain conditions that most people readily acknowledge make them worse drivers. Intoxication is the most readily-acknowledged dangerous condition for drivers, but it is far from the only one. Distraction has recently become a top concern among policymakers and safety professionals, as drivers looking at their mobile phones or eating during their commute can cause crashes.

Fatigue or exhaustion is also a bodily condition that directly impacts someone’s ability to drive safely, with the physical consequences often mirroring those of chemical impairment, such as delayed reaction times and difficulty focusing.

Quite a few people have no choice but to get behind the wheel when feeling tired. If those people are in control of commercial vehicles, the result could be a catastrophic trucking crash that causes injury or even death to others.

Fatigue is a major causative factor for trucking crashes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spends significant resources and time devoted to analyzing and understanding what causes large truck crashes in order to reduce the frequency with which they occur. Most people will not feel surprised to learn that fatigue or exhaustion on the part of the commercial driver factors into a substantial number of commercial truck crashes.

Roughly 13% of all analyzed commercial vehicle collisions involved commercial drivers who self-reported experiencing fatigue or exhaustion prior to the crash. Self-reporting generally skews results to the low end, as people don’t like to acknowledge that they made mistakes. The actual number of commercial crashes involving fatigue or exhaustion could be much higher.

Despite limits on work times, truckers are under scheduling pressure

There are federal rules in place that limit the length of a shift and require specific breaks for commercial drivers, with different rules depending on whether the driver has a vehicle filled with other people or merchandise. Those transporting goods or materials can typically drive for longer than those transporting people.

Unfortunately, many companies expect their drivers to max out the allowed drive times on any given shift. Companies often have very little tolerance for late deliveries and delays, regardless of how traffic conditions or inclement weather may have slowed a driver down. Additionally, rules about how long a trucker can drive don’t reflect a commute to and from work at the end or beginning of their day, or other issues that could contribute to their overall level of exhaustion and risk for a wreck.

Those hurt by fatigued commercial drivers could have a claim against the driver responsible for the wreck, as well as against the company that employed them if company policies played a role in making the driver get behind the wheel while tired.