It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone to discover that fatigue and sleeplessness contribute to a high percentage of truck and semi accidents on the roads of Rhode Island and other states. Up to 40 percent of all accidents involving commercial vehicles are related in some part to driver fatigue. And for this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) set out guidelines on the number of hours a truck driver could spend on the road in 2018.
Despite regulations requiring drivers to take regular rest breaks and limiting the hours on the road, tired drivers are still causing accidents every day. If you are involved in such an accident, you need to consider contacting an attorney to protect your rights.
What Is Fatigue?
Fatigue is a catchall term for the condition of your body and mind after a long period without rest or sleep. Everyone has been in a fatigued state after too much time at work or on the road. You may feel sleepy or foggy, or like you are moving too slowly. The difference is that you are not driving an 80,000-pound truck down the highway at 60 miles per hour.
Fatigue is the result of inadequate rest breaks, insufficient mealtime, and lack of restful sleep. These things are all especially problematic for long-haul truckers who want to “drive through” or are encouraged to do so by their company or their schedule. Ten hours in the cab of a truck, with only quick breaks for some truck-stop nachos and a soda, followed by a catnap in the back of a sleeper cab, can only lead to a fatigued driver on the following day.
What Does Fatigue Do to the Driver?
After a day or two of this schedule, drivers may feel okay but will have increasing difficulty with their daily routine.
- Fatigue slows reaction time. The braking and turning time of a big rig is seconds slower than that of even a large car or SUV. Truck drivers are continually being cut off by cars that cannot appreciate the mass and speed of the truck, so they need fast reflexes for swerving and braking. Fatigue means a slower foot on the brake and a slower realization of the need to turn or swerve.
- Fatigue means poor decision-making. A fatigued driver may feel okay, especially in the morning after a cup of coffee. But their mind may be as slow as their feet. They may think they can drive a little faster to get to a destination or take a chance on running a few signals if nobody is around.
- Fatigue leads to tunnel vision. Eventually, fatigue increases to the point the driver must use all their energy just to focus on keeping their truck aimed straight down the road in front of them. They may become unaware of vehicles to their left and right, especially as cars move in and out of their blind spots. Tunnel vision, sometimes called highway hypnosis, can be deadly on long drives across boring terrain.
- Fatigue leads to falling asleep. The end result of fatigue is sleepiness. The body can only take so much poor food, poor rest, and visual monotony. A driver who fails to get sufficient breaks will find their eyes drifting shut no matter how much coffee or energy drinks they swallow down.
What We Can Do
Under federal law, drivers are required to keep meticulous logs of their hours on and off the road and how much time they spend sleeping in their trucks and in motels. These truck logs create a record of the driver’s rest time.
In cases of accident, it is possible to assess whether the driver was fatigued or not and how much that fatigue may have had to do with the accident. However, truck drivers and their companies are not anxious to hand over the logs to accident victims. Drivers are only required to keep the logs for six months, and after that they may be erased or destroyed.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a big rig or any kind of commercial truck or other vehicle, you should contact an attorney right away. You have a limited amount of time to get a notice to the company to prevent the loss of their logbooks.
Contact the Providence truck accident lawyers of Law Offices of Ronald J. Resmini, Accident & Injury Lawyers, Ltd. as soon as possible at (401) 751-8855 with any questions or concerns about your truck accident. Our team can help you acquire the logbook, interview drivers and witnesses, and determine what impact driver fatigue may have played in your accident so we can pursue compensation for you.