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A Guide to Fatigued Driving and Truck Accidents in California

A fully loaded commercial truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. To safely operate such a large vehicle, a driver needs skill and focus. Without adequate rest, even the best of truck drivers become dangerous. Unfortunately, fatigued driving remains a serious problem in the trucking industry. Each year, far too many people are severely injured or killed because truckers fail to stop driving when overly fatigued. In this blog post, our Stockton truck accident attorneys provide a comprehensive guide to fatigued driving and truck accidents in California. 

Fatigued Drivers Cause a Significant Percentage of Truck Accidents

Large commercial truck accidents can happen for a wide range of different reasons—from truckers speeding to a truck company’s failure to perform proper maintenance. That being said, truck driver fatigue contributes to a significant percentage of tractor-trailer accidents in the United States. According to recent data published by the federal government, driver fatigue has been cited as a factor in nearly 13 percent of all commercial vehicle accidents. It is one of the top causes of avoidable truck accidents. 

The trucking industry is highly competitive. Far too many truckers feel the need to work excessively long schedules, putting in long hours behind the wheel to meet tight delivery deadlines. While there is certainly nothing wrong with working hard, the simple reality is that truckers need proper rest to be able to drive safely. Drowsy and overly fatigued truck drivers put everyone in harm’s way. Individual truckers and trucking companies have a duty to stop fatigued driving. 

Know the Dangers of Drowsy Driving (It May Be as Bad as Drunk Driving

Although most people are broadly aware that drowsiness reduces alertness, far fewer understand the extent to which fatigued driving is dangerous driving. For reference, the National Sleep Foundation found that fatigued driving shares many similarities with intoxicated driving. A person who has been awake for 24 consecutive hours is as impaired as a person who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10—above the legal limit in California. Fatigued driving is problematic for a number of different reasons, including: 

  • A loss of ability to concentrate on the road; 
  • Slowed reaction time; 
  • Poor decision-making; and
  • A risk of falling asleep while driving. 

Of course, fatigued driving is dangerous in any situation. A driver of a standard-sized passenger car who is drowsy is always at risk. Still, driving a large commercial truck is even more challenging. A trucker who is overly fatigued has the potential to cause a catastrophic or even fatal accident. 

Federal Service Hour Regulations Help Prevent Trucker Fatigue 

Highway safety experts have long warned of the dangers of fatigued driving. It has been a consistent problem in the trucking industry—where there is often intense pressure for truck drivers to work long hours to meet tight delivery schedules. In 2013, federal regulators took renewed action to help address this problem. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put regulations in driving time restrictions (Hours of Service limits) in place for commercial truck drivers. In effect, these rules—which apply to all truckers in California—limit the amount of time that a trucker can spend driving a tractor-trailer over a given period. Here is a brief overview of the regulations for property-carrying truck drivers: 

  1. Daily Driving Limit: A truck driver may spend a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel in a day—and they must have taken at least 10 consecutive hours off before doing so. 
  2. Daily Driving Window: A truck driver must complete their entire daily shift (11 hours maximum) within a 14 hour period. After 14 hours, they need to take a 10 hour break. 
  3. Mandatory Break: A truck driver must take a 30 minute break at least once every eight hours. The regulation is satisfied as long as the trucker is not driving during this period. 
  4. Weekly Driving Limit: A trucker can drive for a maximum of 60 hours in a 7 day period or 70 hours in an 8 day period. To restart the clock, they must take a minimum of 34 consecutive hours off from driving. 

Notably, federal regulations and California state regulations also mandate that large commercial truck drivers must log their hours. A trucker and their employer (truck company) has a legal responsibility to ensure that service hours are properly logged. Depending on the circumstances, a truck may need to be equipped with an electronic logging device (ELD). If a trucking company violates service hour regulations and an accident occurs, they may be legally liable for the damages sustained by an injured victim. 

Fatigued Driving is Negligent Driving: Injured Victims Deserve Justice 

All truck drivers have a general responsibility to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. Among other things, this means avoiding fatigued driving. Drowsy driving is negligent driving—even if a trucker is not in violation of the FMCSA’s service hour limits. Truck accidents require an in-depth investigation to determine how and why they happened. Fatigued driving is not always an immediate and obvious cause. At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton truck accident lawyers will take immediate action to get you justice and compensation for your injuries. Following a fatigued trucking accident, you may be eligible to recover compensation for: 

  • Vehicle repairs or vehicle replacement;
  • Emergency room services;
  • Hospital bills and medical expenses;
  • Rehabilitative care; 
  • Lost wages and diminished earning power;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional trauma; 
  • Permanent physical scarring; 
  • Long term disability; and
  • Wrongful death of a close loved one.  

Call Our Stockton, CA Truck Accident Lawyers for Immediate Help With Your Case

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton commercial truck accident lawyers are experienced, results-focused advocates for injured victims. If you or your loved one was hurt in a crash with a fatigued driver, we are here to help. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation review and evaluation of your case. We represent truck accident victims in Stockton and throughout the region, including in Lathrop, Lodi, Tracy, Manteca, Sacramento, Elk Grove, Modesto, Farmington, and Lockeford.