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Truck Accidents Caused by Driver Fatigue and Drowsiness

One of the main causes of big rig truck and 18-wheeler crashes is driver fatigue. Unfortunately, Tennessee is no stranger to driver fatigue trucking accidents. In June 2019, a man pumping gas in Rutherford County was killed when a semi-truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. The trucker crashed into a pickup truck, hit a diesel tank at a convenient store and flipped over, causing it to catch fire before then hitting two more cars and the victim, who was fueling his vehicle. Tragic accidents like this Murfreesboro truck wreck illustrate the dangers of driving while tired or fatigued.

The National Transportation Safety Board is a federal agency charged with the task of investigating accidents, determining their causes, and making recommendation to improve safety within the transportation industry. The NTSB has estimated that driver fatigue plays a role in nearly 30-40% of commercial truck crashes. Science concludes that tired individuals are more prone to making mistakes. A recent AAA study found that drivers who get even 1 hour less sleep than normal have an increased crash risk. Drivers who only get 4-5 hours of sleep exhibit some of the same risks as one driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit of intoxication.

What constitutes driver fatigue, you may ask? A number of conditions can lead to driver fatigue. Common examples include the lack of sleep or driving too long of a shift, which could lead to lower reaction times and lapses in judgment. Since commercial trucks can weigh nearly 80,000 pounds and transport dangerous chemicals, getting proper rest should be of utmost importance. However, some trucking carriers put pressure on their drivers to make as many deliveries as quickly as possible, and the only way to comply with such strict deadlines could mean foregoing sleep and rest breaks.

The federal government recognizes how the pressure to drive conflicts with getting proper rest and sleep. That is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has instituted Hours of Service Rules. These rules require interstate truck drivers to obtain proper rest. They require mandatory rest breaks and limit the number of consecutive driving hours and shift hours one may take.

  • Property-carrying drivers can drive no more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty
  • Passenger-carrying drivers, like charter buses, can drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty
  • Commercial drivers cannot driver after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days

If you were hit by a truck driver who violated the hours of service rules, you can recover compensation for your losses such as medical bills, prescriptions, lost wages, and property damage. Our truck accident lawyers have experience handling 18-wheeler accidents, and we understand the importance of conducting a thorough investigation into all aspects of a truck accident. We have the resources to consult with qualified expert witnesses who can assist in reviewing evidence, including driver logs. This can determine whether or not a truck driver properly complied with federal law. Depending on the facts, the trucking company could also be held responsible for negligent supervision of the driver. In order to recover for all of your damages, it is important to identify all legal theories which may apply to your case.

Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz has represented people injured in Tennessee truck accidents for more than 30 years. Our lawyers serve all of Tennessee, including Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Murfreesboro. Call us toll-free at 800-529-4004 or complete our online form for a free consultation with an experienced truck accident attorney in Tennessee today. We will explain to you our plan for investigating your accident and protecting your legal rights throughout your case.