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Signs of Truck Driver Fatigue

truck driver yawns from behind the steering wheel

Studies have shown that the effect of not sleeping for 18 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent—the legal threshold for drunk driving.

Truck driver fatigue is a pervasive problem in the commercial trucking industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines fatigue as the result of physical or mental exertion that impairs performance. FMCSA estimates put the number of semi-truck crashes caused by driver fatigue at around 13%. But since fatigue is so difficult to prove, the percentage may be much higher.

Because fatigue is so dangerous to drivers operating 40-ton commercial vehicles—many hauling flammable and hazardous materials—the FMCSA has created a system of regulations to prevent driver exhaustion. These hours of service (HOS) regulations aim to keep driving hours to a reasonable minimum and force drivers to take regular rest periods.

Adhering to these federal requirements helps drivers avoid some of the major causes of truck driver fatigue, such as:

  • Lack of adequate sleep
  • Extended working hours, whether driving or performing other work-related duties
  • Overly strenuous work activities
  • Participating in exhausting activities during non-work hours
  • The inappropriate use of caffeine, sleeping pills, or other legal or illegal drugs

If you were involved in a commercial trucking accident in Texas and you suspect the truck driver was fatigued, get in touch with Buckingham & Vega Law Firm right away. One of our truck accident attorneys can conduct a thorough investigation to determine if fatigued driving was a factor in your collision. If a truck driver was negligent and operated a vehicle when it was not safe to do so, we’ll fight to get you the justice you deserve.

How Do I Know if a Truck Driver Is Fatigued?

Based on our experience handling truck accident cases in the Houston area, there are a few warning signs drivers can look for to tell if a trucker is fatigued. These include:

  • Weaving in and out of lanes
  • Speeding up and slowing down at random intervals
  • Tailgating
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Failing to signal turns or lane changes
  • Sudden braking
  • Last-minute turns
  • Veering off the road
  • Wrong-way driving
  • Stopping for extended periods at red lights and stop signs
  • Swerving and jerky movements of the steering wheel

Not surprisingly, you may find these behaviors are similar to those indicative of drunk driving. A fatigued driver is an unpredictable driver, and thus a very dangerous driver. Stay as far as you can from a truck that appears to be driven by an impaired operator. If you believe the driver is an imminent threat to their own safety or the safety of others, pull over and call the police.

Physical Impairments Associated With Fatigue

We know that fatigue impairs the body in a number of ways, from mild to severe. Here is an incomplete list of some common physical and cognitive symptoms associated with fatigue.

If a truck driver is over-exhausted, they are likely experiencing several of these symptoms while driving:

  • Repeated yawning
  • Inability to keep one’s eyes open
  • Memory lapses (often, not being able to remember the last several miles of driving)
  • Highway hypnosis (a trance-like state in which the driver does not actively think about driving)
  • “Zoning out”
  • Lack of focus
  • Inattention
  • Body tension
  • Irritability
  • Increased susceptibility to rage or aggression
  • Inability to keep the vehicle centered in one lane
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Poor judgment
  • Shallow breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Reduced cognitive abilities
  • Falling asleep behind the wheel

How Drivers Can Avoid Fatigue Behind the Wheel

Whether you are a commercial truck driver or not, there are a few simple steps to take to ensure you never drive fatigued. The FMCSA makes these recommendations to CDL carriers, and you can use them as well to keep yourself as safe as possible while traveling the roads of Houston or elsewhere.

  • Always get enough sleep before hitting the road
  • Try to avoid driving at night, when drowsiness is more likely to occur
  • Keep a healthy diet and don’t skip meals before or during driving times
  • Pull over and take a 15-45 minute nap when you begin to feel tired
  • Refrain from taking any medication that may cause drowsiness
  • A coffee or tea can help, but don’t rely on caffeine alone
  • Learn to recognize the signs of fatigue and never ignore them

Taking Legal Action After a Truck Accident Caused by Driver Fatigue

There is no good excuse for a truck driver to put the lives of others in danger by driving while fatigued. Even if a trucker is facing pressure from an employer or worried about reaching a destination on time, driving fatigued is simply not worth the risk. The consequences can be—and often are—fatal.

If you were injured or a loved one lost their life in a trucking accident caused by a fatigued driver, we can help. Buckingham & Vega Law Firm devotes an area of legal practice to helping truck accident victims in Houston defend their rights and take back their lives after tragedy. We have the knowledge and experience to find the evidence to prove that a truck driver’s negligence caused your injuries. Call today to schedule a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer from our law firm.

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