Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue

Posted On March 20, 2024 / By Manning Law / Truck Accidents

Accidents involving large and heavy commercial trucks are some of the most devastating collisions in Colorado. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 5,700 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents in 2021 alone – an 18 percent increase from 2020. Denver truck accident lawyers share that truck driver fatigue is a significant issue involved in these accidents.

Why Is Truck Driver Fatigue Such a Significant Problem? 

Many aspects inherent to a truck driver’s job can increase the likelihood of a driver operating a big rig while drowsy, tired or fatigued, including:

  • Long hours on the road, often driving alone.
  • Overnight shifts and reversed sleep cycles.
  • Pressure to meet strict delivery deadlines.
  • Rest breaks taken in uncomfortable sleeper berths or dangerous locations, such as while parked on the side of the road.
  • Medical conditions caused or exacerbated by hours of sitting and/or an unhealthy diet.
  • Conditions that disturb sleep, such as sleep apnea.

The high risk of truck driver fatigue led to the passing of a federal law that limits the number of hours a trucker can drive without taking a rest break. This is known as the hours-of-service rule, and it restricts truck drivers to a maximum of 11 driving hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty.

What Are the Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue? 

A truck driver who is tired or suffering from fatigue cannot operate an 18-wheeler as safely as one who is fully awake and alert. Fatigue dulls the senses and can reduce a truck driver’s reaction times. Drowsiness can also alter a driver’s mental state, provide a distraction, make it more difficult to concentrate on the road, and impair judgment and decision-making. 

Fatigued driving has been compared to drunk driving in terms of how it affects a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Fatigue and intoxication can both impact a driver’s reflexes and ability to react correctly to changing roadway situations, such as braking in time to avoid crashing into a stopped vehicle or avoiding a hazard.

Proving Truck Driver Fatigue

When a truck accident occurs in Colorado, an investigation may be launched by the trucking company, the police and an insurance company. These parties will look for evidence and attempt to piece together how and why the truck accident took place. 

Evidence that points to a fatigued truck driver may include:

  • The truck’s black box
  • Electronic logging devices or event data recorders
  • The truck driver’s employment and medical histories
  • Driver hour logs
  • Truck company compliance records
  • Eyewitness statements

Re-creating the truck accident based on where each vehicle has property damage can also establish that a truck driver was drowsy or had fallen asleep behind the wheel at the time of the crash.

Liability for a Truck Accident Caused By Truck Driver Fatigue

If an investigation determines that truck driver fatigue caused the crash, the trucking company can most likely be held liable (financially responsible) for damage. Federal law holds truck companies accountable for accidents involving their trucks and drivers, even if the drivers are classified as independent contractors. 

A truck company could also be held directly responsible for a drowsy driving accident if it pressured the truck driver to violate hours-of-service regulations or skip rest breaks to make a delivery on time. Holding a trucking company liable for a fatigued driver accident requires clear and convincing evidence. 

Contact a Denver Truck Accident Attorney 

If you have been injured in a truck accident involving a drowsy truck driver in Colorado, contact Manning Law to request assistance and representation from an experienced personal injury lawyer in Denver. We can investigate your crash, gather evidence of truck driver fatigue and fight for maximum financial compensation on your behalf. Call (720) 515-3191 today.