When we are driving, we typically don’t worry about how well the people around us slept last night or how long they’ve been behind the wheel. And in most cases, those details do not matter or affect us. However, when the driver is operating a massive commercial truck, those details can be detrimental to our safety.
Driving a semi-truck takes special skills and training. It requires separate licenses, and drivers must pass a physical. Drivers must also comply with trucking-specific regulations, including Hours of Service regulations. These regulations restrict how long a driver can be behind the wheel to prevent fatigued driving, and there are important reasons why these are in place.
Fatigue and driver safety
Sleepy drivers can be very dangerous on the road. Their reflexes can be slower; they may not be thinking clearly; they can lose focus. Under such conditions, a driver can be incapable of operating a vehicle safely – particularly if the vehicle is a large commercial truck.
Unfortunately, truckers may be especially motivated to drive when they are too tired to do so safely. They have deadlines to meet, and there is a financial incentive for drivers to get their routes completed as quickly as possible.
As such, drivers can be on the road for longer than they should be. Some even use drugs or alcohol to try and stay alert.
Tracking driving times
The Hours of Service regulations are in place to minimize this risk of fatigued driving. The exact rules depend on the type of truck and cargo, and the final rules for hours of service are still pending. But the regulations set limits on the number of consecutive hours a trucker can be on the job, and they dictate when and for how long drivers must rest.
Drivers must track their time using logbooks. However, there have been cases of drivers or trucking companies falsifying these records. Too often, logbook violations are only discovered after a catastrophic crash involving a trucker who was tired or fell asleep.
Because of this, it is crucial to examine a trucker’s driving history and logbooks after an accident involving a truck. In cases where the driver was fatigued, or the trucking company failed to enforce HOS regulations, legal remedies may be available to victims.