Fatigue serves as one of the leading causes of trucking accidents in Oklahoma and across the country. The problem is largely due to the nature of the industry and the fact that many professional truck drivers are paid by the mile – not by the hour or through a salary. So, the more miles they drive, the more money they earn. With such a strong financial incentive to keep the wheels moving, you can easily see why some drivers feel pressure to go beyond their safe limits – even if it means violating the law.
If you recently suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a crash involving a tractor-trailer driver, fatigue may have been a factor. Cain Law Office will know how to immediately investigate the crash, determine the cause and aggressively pursue all compensation that you are due.
Our respected Oklahoma truck accident attorneys have more than 20 years of experience with successfully handling these difficult cases. Our founder, Monty Cain, has secured millions of dollars for crash victims and their families, earning recognition in the National Association of Top 100 Trial Lawyers and Top 25 Brain Injury Lawyer and many other honors. Contact us today for a free consultation and learn more about how we can put our experience to work for you.
How Dangerous Is Truck Driver Fatigue?
As the National Sleep Foundation notes, drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. According to the NSF, a person who has been awake for 18 straight hours will drive as if the person has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05 percent, while a person who has been awake for 24 straight hours will drive as if he or she has a BAC of .10. To put that in perspective: Under Oklahoma law, commercial drivers cannot drive with a BAC of .04 or higher, while others cannot drive with a BAC of .08 or higher.
The NSF notes that fatigued drivers struggle to focus and pay attention, and their reaction times can be significantly slow. The danger is heightened when a driver is at the controls of a rig that may weigh 80,000 pounds or more and is barreling down the interstate at speeds of 70 mph or faster. If the driver nods off, loses control and crosses the center line or a median strip, the driver can cause catastrophic damage. In some tractor-trailer crashes, the driver may drift off the road due to fatigue and then jackknife or collide with other vehicles while overcorrecting.
According to the landmark Large Truck Crash Causation Study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), driver fatigue contributes to 13 percent of commercial vehicle accidents. More recently, the FMCSA reported that driver impairment – including impairment by fatigue – contributed to 3.7 percent of fatal crashes involving large trucks in our country between 2014 and 2016, making it the fourth-leading driver-related factor in those crashes (behind speeding, distracted driving and failing to yield the right of way).
What’s Being Done to Prevent Driver Fatigue?
Over the past decade or so, the commercial trucking industry has come up with a number of measures to prevent fatigue-related accidents. Unfortunately, like any preventative measures, they are heavily reliant on drivers and companies actually complying with and implementing the measures. Examples include:
- Hours of service regulations – After extensive debate, the FMCSA revised its hours of service (HOS) rules. The revised rules place greater limits on the number of hours which truckers can driver without breaks. For instance, under the HOS rules, a property-carrying driver can drive only a maximum of 11 hours in a shift – but only after the driver has spent 10 consecutive hours off duty. Additionally, the trucker can drive only drive eight hours before taking a mandatory 30-minute break.
- Computerized logs – Truck drivers traditionally have kept paper log books to record each trip, including the length of their driving time and their rest periods. However, many unscrupulous drivers learned tricks to get around the law, like keeping multiple books. One log was kept as their official log book to turn in for pay, while another “clean” log was kept to show authorities in the event they were pulled over. While clearly illegal and unsafe, truckers got away with operating far beyond their legal hours of service for decades. New computerized logs have made it much harder for truck drivers to do this. Still, technology has not entirely eliminated the problem.
- Computerized GPS and satellite communications – Large trucking companies now use GPS and satellite communications to keep track of where their trucks are at any given time. Thanks to this technology, dispatchers and company management can know exactly where their trucks are and how long their drivers have been behind the wheel. This means that when a truck driver violates the law, the company will have a much harder time arguing that it didn’t know about it.
Establishing Liability for Fatigued Truck Driving Accidents
The stakes are high in tractor-trailer accident cases. Trucking companies and their insurers move fast to protect their interests. This is why you should get help from an experienced lawyer as soon as possible after you have been injured or lost a loved one in a trucking accident in Oklahoma. The lawyer can take immediate steps to investigate the crash, including preserving, collecting and studying evidence that will point to the cause of the accident.
For instance, if a truck driver violated the HOS rules, and the driver’s violation caused an accident, then the driver’s negligence may be presumed as a matter of law. In other words, it is negligence per se. So, it will be important for your lawyer to obtain and inspect the driver’s paper or computerized log records, toll booth receipts, bills of lading and other evidence which can show how long the driver was on the road.
In many cases, the truck driver is not the only one who should be held responsible. The trucking company may be liable based on the truck driver’s negligence or based on the company’s own careless and reckless conduct. For example, the trucking company may have encouraged or forced drivers to break HOS rules, or it may have hired and failed to adequately supervise a driver with a history of breaking the rules or causing accidents.
Contact Our Oklahoma Truck Accident Attorneys Today
At Cain Law Office, our rapid-response investigative team knows how to track down crucial evidence in truck accident cases, and our skilled and experienced lawyers know how to use that evidence to seek the maximum amount of compensation for victims and their families.
If you are suffering after a truck accident, and you suspect the truck driver was fatigued or falling asleep at the wheel, contact us immediately to review your case in a free consultation. We will never ask you to pay upfront. We will only get paid out of your final settlement or verdict. To learn more, speak to a member of our team today.