There is no question that commercial trucking is a difficult and demanding career. Commercial drivers often have to work incredibly long shifts, potentially without any direct human interaction four hours at a time. Additionally, they often need to load and unload merchandise or supplies onto trailers, which can cause joint damage and back pain.
Even physically maintaining control over a big rig for hours at a time takes a physical toll. Back pain, shoulder pain and even carpal tunnel can result from the physical strain of steering, shifting and braking for hours.
Truck drivers also have to adhere to relatively strict schedules set by their employers. The unfortunate combination of long working hours and physically demanding work creates a perfect situation for trucker exhaustion. In fact, trucker exhaustion likely contributes to a significant number of collisions every year.
Exhaustion impairs driving ability, much like alcohol
Driving when you feel utterly exhausted is dangerous for you and everyone else on the road. You run the risk of causing a crash due to the way that fatigue affects your driving skills. Exhaustion impacts your cognitive ability, not unlike alcohol. The longer you go without sleep, the more your driving resembles someone who may have had too much to drink.
The effects of exhausted driving can include slower reaction times, failure to notice changes in conditions and difficulty focusing on the task at hand. Even in passenger vehicles, fatigue behind the wheel can increase the risk of a crash.
For those driving commercial trucks, these symptoms could easily result in a crash that claims the life of someone else. Big rigs require longer to stop and greater care when driving. Those who are exhausted will not be able to maintain adequate control over a commercial truck.
The federal government limits drive times but can’t screen for fatigue
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has rules, called the Hours of Service rules, limiting how long truck drivers can legally operate a commercial vehicle. They limit how long a trucker can drive in any given shift, as well as how long they can drive over the course of seven or eight days.
The intent here is to prevent systematic abuses by employers or truck drivers that result in dangerous exhaustion. Unfortunately, even truckers who adhere to the hours of service rules can still find themselves too tired to safely drive. The end result may be a crash.
If you have reason to believe that exhaustion factored into a collision, talking with an attorney is a smart first step. An attorney may be able to help you obtain digital records of the truck driver’s hours of operation. Those may help you establish a habit of driving too long, which can help if you intended to bring a lawsuit against the driver.