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How Serious Is Truck Driver Fatigue?

In short, it is deadly enough to have numerous regulations written to combat it.

Historically, truck drivers have faced pressure from both their employer and their clients to deliver goods as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, it is not always possible for drivers to complete a long haul while keeping a focus on both speed and safety. For this reason, many drivers have resorted to exceeding the limits of exhaustion to log more miles in a day - often relying on skipping breaks, putting off rest and using various stimulants to stay on the road. Fortunately, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set about crafting regulations designed to keep drivers safe and rested.

The FMCSA codes fatigue in a category called "non-performance," which was listed as the causation of 12 percent of all truck driving accidents in their study. With such a significant number of accidents, injuries and fatalities based on fatigue, the FMCSA developed an hours-of-service rule:

  • Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours
  • Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum of 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most - from 1-5 a.m.
  • Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift

Truck drivers and trucking companies who fail to follow these restrictions could face serious consequences including thousands of dollars in penalties for each offense.

Unfortunately, even with these restrictions in place, many drivers push harder than they should. The driver of an 18-wheeler who is falling asleep behind the wheel is a danger to those driving on New Jersey streets and highways. If you were involved in a truck collision, or you have lost a loved one due to truck driver negligence, it is crucial that you discuss your case with an experienced attorney.

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