Alertness and concentration are crucial to operate a heavy truck. Therefore, rest is vital to give the driver enough stamina to make a long haul and to combat fatigue. However, trucking companies often put profits ahead of lives and demand their truckers forgo sleep to deliver more goods more quickly.
Berenson Injury Law understands the risks of operating a tractor-trailer while tired and the catastrophic accidents that may result. With close to 40 years of exclusively handling auto and truck crashes, our firm recognizes the telltale signs that the trucker nodded off or was sleep-deprived at the time of your crash. We conduct an extensive investigation to prove the driver was not fit to operate a big-rig and that the company should be held liable for putting a tired driver on the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets restrictions on the number of hours commercial drivers can work and drive, and requires rest periods. The hours of service (HOS) regulations require truck drivers to:
In addition, the driver must accurately track this data and record shift, drive and rest time in a logbook. As of December 2017, trucking companies must also install electronic logging devices on all vehicles in their fleets. ELDs track when the vehicle is turned on and moving. The data cannot be erased or altered, thereby frustrating the formerly common deceptive practice of keeping two sets of books or making changes to hide HOS violations after a wreck. Liability for Tired Drivers
A trucker is responsible for pulling over and shutting down until he is rested enough to drive. The liability also extends to the corporations that are responsible for the driver and the delivery.
Respondeat superior is a legal theory that holds an employer responsible for the negligence of its employees who are acting within their employment duties. In addition, a trucking employer may be directly liable for negligence for tolerating, encouraging or demanding that truckers drive beyond the hours allowed by law. For example, the employer might set an unrealistic delivery time, knowing that the trucker would have to work more than the permissible hours in order to make the deadline. Likewise, the employer may refuse to pay for sleeping accommodations on a long journey and thereby incentivize the driver to continue driving to avoid the expense of stopping for the night.
Unlike intoxication, sleepiness is not quantifiable. There is no blood, breath or field test that can measure whether a driver is too tired to drive. For this reason, regulations are crucial because the driver would otherwise only be deemed fatigued after a crash has occurred. Instead, HOS rules provide a valuable enforcement tool that can prevent drivers from operating a big-rig while fatigued and take them off the road if caught doing so.
A violation of hours of service rules is negligence per se, which shifts a presumption of fault onto the driver. Our accident attorney, therefore, reviews HOS logs, ELD data, and the truck’s black box to calculate the number of hours the driver was behind the wheel and on duty. Compliance with the law does not conversely relieve the driver or liability. The driver may nonetheless be too exhausted to drive within the parameters of the HOS regulations. We thus also investigate the truck driver’s activities before starting a trip, such as whether the driver had to travel a long distance from home to the starting point of the journey or if he was partying instead of resting during his time off.
A fatigued driver should never be allowed to operate a heavy truck. If a tired driver ran into you, call Berenson Injury Law at 817-885-8000. You can discuss your claim at a free consultation with our 18-wheeler accident attorney.
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