There is Bad News in the Latest NHTSA Fatigued Truck Driver Report
A new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fatigued driver report was released last week and it suggested that fatigued truck drivers are creating an even bigger hazard than was previously feared. They report that upward of 100,000 crashes every year are related to driver fatigue and that too many of them involve professional drivers operating heavy commercial vehicles. Those 100,000 crashes lead to more than 1,500 deaths and 71,000 serious injuries each year, leading to more than $12.5 billion in damages. That’s every year.
The NHTSA didn’t just report on the problem; they actually made a plea to truckers and trucking companies to do a lot more to protect the public by preventing fatigued commercial drivers from getting behind the wheel of their 18-wheelers, buses and other large commercial vehicles, when they are tired. The report reiterated that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) places a legal responsibility on both drivers and trucking companies to make sure that anyone who is suspected of being fatigued or suffers from conditions like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) stays off of the road. They are also responsible for following hours of service regulations. The problem is, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the new rules have provided no means to effectively monitor driving hours, so they haven’t been as effective as they should be.
In reality, according to the NHTSA report, commercial drivers generally are still required to drive long distances for long periods of time, often at night, which makes them more susceptible to falling asleep behind the wheel than other drivers. That is why fatigue is often the most frequently cited cause of accidents involving large trucks. In all, fatigue was a factor in about one-third of all such accidents in the NHTSA study and it was also cited in 31 percent of the 182 fatal-to-the-truck-driver accidents studied.
The report also noted that the sedentary lifestyles of most commercial truck drivers often leads to a high body mass index (BMI), which puts them commercial drivers at greater risk than others for developing potentially dangerous sleep disorders. And while the FMCSA requires commercial drivers to undergo regular medical exams, which are designed to diagnose such conditions before they become problems, a large number of sleep disorders continue to go undiagnosed or ignored.
Once again, it is time that Congress and state legislators do something about this problem and do it now. Those numbers show a serious problem exists and that states like Texas, which is engaging in education campaigns to try to increase awareness, need to do more to solve it. Truck drivers are operating large vehicles that can weigh many tons on roads at speeds of 70 miles per hour or higher, on the same roads with people who are driving much smaller vehicles with a lower level of training and skill. It’s necessary for commercial drivers and trucking companies to be more responsible.
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in an accident involving a truck on a Texas road and you believe the truck driver may have been fatigued at the time, please contact the experienced Truck Accident Lawyer at the Hill Law Firm as soon as possible, so that we can investigate help you protect your rights under the law.