Articles Posted in Truck Driver Fatigue

To be sure, truck drivers have difficult jobs. Typically, they drive for long hours at a time, many days in a row. Because of this, they may get distracted, restless, fatigued, or careless while driving, causing them to make mistakes and potentially cause an accident. Because of the sheer size of most trucks, accidents involving these vehicles are some of the most dangerous to Maryland drivers. When driving near a truck, it is impossible to know if the truck driver is exhausted, paying attention, or how many hours they have been driving without resting. Because of this, drivers are always encouraged to be on high alert and as careful as possible when driving, especially near trucks, to try and minimize the risk of a Maryland truck accident.

The federal government has also taken steps to decrease the number of truck accidents across the nation. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has promulgated regulations that limit how many hours truck drivers can drive each day. Property-carrying drivers (those carrying goods and materials, as opposed to passenger-carrying drivers) can only drive 11 hours within a 14-hour period. This 14-hour period must only start after the driver has been off-duty for 10 consecutive hours. It is important to note that the 11 hours cannot be consecutive: drivers cannot drive more than 8 hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Additionally, the regulations place a limit in how many hours a driver can work each week—if a driver has been “on-duty” for over 70 hours in the past 8 days, or 60 hours in the past 7 days, they cannot drive any more until that is no longer the case. A driver can “reset” the 7- or 8-day period by taking 34 or more hours off.

These regulations are put in place for drivers’ safety, and to minimize the occurrence of truck accidents across the United States. However, truck accidents do still occur, and when they do, people may be injured or even killed. Maryland state law allows those injured in these instances to file a civil negligence suit against the driver—if they were being careless or made a mistake that led to the crash, they can be held liable and ordered to pay monetary damages to cover the resulting harm. Importantly, if a driver was violating the hour of service regulations described above, a plaintiff’s case against them may be more straight-forward, since the defendant was clearly violating federal regulations.

Earlier this week in Beltsville, Maryland, one man was killed when a semi-truck crashed through a construction site on Interstate 95. According to one local news report, the fatal truck accident took place at around 1:30 in the morning near the crossing with Md. 200.

Evidently, the right lane and the ramp of Interstate 95 northbound were both closed for an ongoing construction project. As the semi-truck was heading north, it failed to negotiate a turn in the road and crashed into a truck with lighted arrow signs on top of it placed to direct traffic away from the project. Both the warning truck as well as the semi-truck continued down the highway after the initial collision and struck another construction vehicle before running over the 65-year-old construction worker.

Preliminary reports indicate that the construction crew had placed all appropriate traffic-control and warning devices. The driver of the semi-truck was taken to the hospital as well, although with only minor injuries.

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If you have been paying attention to the news media in the past few weeks, you have certainly heard about a fatal truck accident in New Jersey that claimed the life of one comedian and sent several others to the hospital. Comedian Tracy Morgan was with several of his friends heading north on the New Jersey Turnpike late at night when the limo they were riding in slowed down due to slowing traffic ahead.

As the limo began to slow, the truck that was behind the limo failed to do the same. Eventually, the truck slammed into the rear end of the limo. The crash killed one man and sent four others to the hospital. Four other cars were also involved, but none of their occupants was seriously injured.

According to a recent report by the LOHUD, the truck driver may have been on the road without sleep for the past 24 hours. The driver of the truck has been charged with several criminal offenses for his role in the tragic accident, including assault by automobile and vehicular homicide. Just last week, the driver of the truck—a Wal-mart employee—entered a not guilty plea to all charges. He has posted $50,000 bond and is currently out of custody.

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While we hate to sound like a broken record, we feel compelled to remind anyone reading this to be particularly cautious when driving near a large commercial vehicle. It makes little difference if you live in Baltimore, Rockville, Germantown or the District, being involved in a traffic accident with a much larger commercial motor vehicle can lead to life-threatening injuries or even death. As Maryland personal injury experts, I and my legal staff have seen too many of these large-vehicle wrecks not to advise caution when approaching any 18-wheeler, gasoline tanker truck, automobile hauler, or even a municipal or charter bus.

Injuries sustained by occupants of a passenger car or light truck accident, or a motorcyclist injured by a large truck or other massive motor vehicle can be serious and extensive. From contusions and deep lacerations to multiple fractures, internal organ damage and closed-head trauma, many of the injuries received in these kinds of collisions can lead to other complications, lengthy hospital stays and even death. Head and neck injuries have been known to eventually cause severe paralysis or even paraplegia. Considering the choice between a possible lifetime of 24-hour assisted care versus allowing a big rig semi a wide berth, we know what we our choice would be.

Many traffic accidents involving trucks result from driver fatigue. In fact, a Federal Highway Administration’s study showed that fatigue makes trucking accidents all the more possible. According to experts in the field, although most individuals require more than seven hours of sleep a day to function well, the average trucker reportedly gets less than five hours on average. This is shocking, especially considering the fact that there are regulations in place designed to preclude this kind of situation. Sadly, it apparently does not always help; at any one moment all across our country, there are conceivably hundreds of truck drivers operating their vehicles while in an overly fatigued state, if not completely impaired by lack of sleep.

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For most of the drivers here in Maryland and Washington, D.C., maintaining the safety of oneself and one’s vehicle occupants involves more than a modicum of active participation. In short, to survive in this part of the country a drive must, out of necessity, watch out for the other guy.

What this means for the average passenger car, light truck and motorcycle rider is to be certain that your vehicle is well-maintained, tuned up and mechanically safe and sound. We won’t go into a discussion on the dangers of defective vehicle equipment here, but suffice it to say that a percentage of roadway wrecks are sometimes found to be a result of poorly designed safety components and other critical systems, such as steering and braking systems (an area of law known as Products Liability).

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my legal staff understand the causes of many traffic accidents and how easily a quiet Sunday drive can turn into a serious and sometimes life-threatening event. Keeping a vehicle in good running condition is a basic requirement for safe driving. This goes as much for automobiles as it does for commercial trucks, usually more so.

Speaking of trucking-related accidents, one cannot argue with the laws of physics when it comes to serious traffic accidents involving semi tractor-trailers, such as Kenworths, Peterbilts, and Mack Trucks; not to mention large box trucks and rather heavy and extremely dangerous tanker trucks.

Many passenger car occupants, not to mention motorcyclists, are killed on a tragically frequent basis when they become caught involved in a crash with a commercial delivery vehicle or 18-wheeler. Those smaller, lighter and less substantial motor vehicles are hardly a match for a fully loaded semi, commuter bus or dump truck. Injuries from car-truck collision can take months or years to recover from, both physically and financially, which makes prevention a no-brainer.

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The death last August of a Maryland university professor on an Ohio expressway has raised the question of commercial truck drivers’ ability to function well under the currently legal federally regulated hours of service. It was the untimely death of Stevenson University professor Susan Slattery and numerous other traffic accidents involving commercial truck and passenger vehicles — such as minivan, sedans, SUVs and motorcycles — that has people like Joan Claybrook, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), looking long and hard at the current rules.

As a Baltimore trucking accident lawyer and personal injury attorney, I have heard dozens of heartrending stories involving families who have lost loved ones in traffic wrecks due to another person’s negligence. According to a news report, the federal regulations governing the number of hours a truck driver may be one the road could also be to blame for thousands of deaths each year.

To some, semi tractor-trailers are simply rolling time bombs that claim nearly a dozen lives every day across the United States. And it’s most likely true, according to some, that of the dozens of 18-wheelers a driver meets on the road every hour may be operated by a trucker who has been driving for more than the 12 hours. In fact, there is no way for other motorists to know whether or not a commercial driver has been on the road for only five or as much as 15 hours.

Claybrook herself has reportedly been an advocate for reducing the hours truckers can drive for a while now. Known as “Hours of Service,” federal regulations state that truckers can drive no longer than 11 hours with 10 hours off for rest. But these rules could change as early as 2011, now that there have been some successful lawsuits carried out by safety groups.

As a result, the federal government is now carefully reviewing the question of how many hours a trucker could more safely drive in any given shift. Given the possibility of proposed changes to the current rules governing hours of service, a change in the law could be implemented no later than next summer.

Some would say that it couldn’t come soon enough, what with driver fatigue being blamed for as much as 40 percent of fatal trucking-related accidents; claiming about 5000 lives across the nation every year.

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Recent news reports tying the dangers of sleep deprivation to traffic accidents involving heavy, over-the-road delivery trucks and tractor-trailers have been punctuated by actual stories of fatal and near fatal crashes between passenger vehicles and 18-wheelers. Not only do these relatively large motor carriers pose a threat to passenger cars, light trucks and minivans filled with families, pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles can also find themselves in the crosshairs of a commercial truck and its potentially impaired driver.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers and trucking accident attorneys, I and my colleagues have seen the result of highway and urban collisions between smaller vehicles and these much more massive trucks. If a truck driver is not fit to drive, a potential accident can be lurking around the very next turn. Sleep deprivation, as well as other modes of driver impairment can increase the odds of a collision, which rarely comes out well for the occupants of a smaller passenger car.

In the case of a Maryland university professor killed in an out-of-state highway crash involving a semi, it would appear that police believed that the driver of the big rig may have been sleep deprived prior to the accident. If so, the unfortunate woman and her two injured children riding with her would be three more statistics added to the ever-growing list of tragic and unnecessary trucking accidents.

Police believe a truck crash on Maryland’s Interstate I-695 in late July was the result of a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel. According to news reports, the accident was so severe that Maryland State Police had to shut down the entire inner loop during the morning commute. As a Baltimore trucking accident attorney and personal injury lawyer, I know that drowsy driving is one of the major causes of commercial truck crashes.

A semi tractor-trailer rig is a formidable piece of machinery when compared to even the largest sport utility vehicle or light truck. Passenger cars have little chance of escaping serious damage when hit by an 18-wheeler that is out of control. Even a fully loaded box truck can cause serious property damage and bodily injury if it hits another, smaller vehicle.

According to news accounts, 23-year-old Michael Angel Ocasio was driving a white 2006 GMC box truck along the beltway, a short distance south of the Baltimore National Pike. Authorities said the driver apparently fell asleep and ran into the back of a flat bed trailer around 6am in the morning.

There are many different causes of trucking-related traffic accidents. From poorly maintained or badly designed vehicle equipment, to poor road conditions and driver error, most highway tractor-trailer accidents are hardly ever that… accidents. As Maryland truck accident attorneys, my office knows what to look for when it comes to injuries caused by the negligence of a truck driver or trucking company.

One cause of commercial truck crashes that is frequently in the news is that of driver fatigue. Government regulation limit trucker to a maximum number of hours behind the wheel, which ideally means that the driver then gets sufficient rest before the next day’s driving shift. What the law can’t easily address is how well truckers sleep and whether or not they are fully rested as a result.

Enter the problem of sleep apnea. A common problem with the general public, this affliction can cause loss of concentration and has been known to result in motorists falling asleep at the wheel. But for the average office worker, sleep apnea is more likely to get him chewed out at work than cause him to crash his automobile into a family of five on the interstate.

As a Maryland Trucking Accident lawyer, I know the unfortunate correlation between sleep deprivation and driver negligence, especially as it pertains to professional truck drivers and the sometimes careless operation of 18-wheeled tractor-trailer rigs. While not every over-the-road trucker pushes the limits of physical stamina, a percentage of semi drivers have been known to put in too many hours behind the wheel without sufficient sleep.

The results of sleep-related trucking wrecks can be serious, as news reports often depict. According to a recent article, a tractor-trailer accident caused apparently by an over-tired driver blocked a portion of Interstate 81 near Hagerstown, MD on a Monday afternoon last month. The accident occurred south of Showalter Road where Maryland State Police say the truck driver fell asleep, causing the rig with its 48,000-pound load of paper rolls to drift off the northbound lanes of the interstate, ending up on its side.

This is not an uncommon happening here in Maryland and across the rest of the country. A poll conducted last year by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that nearly 1.9 million drivers are involved in drowsy driving traffic accidents or near misses each and every year. Sadly, most drivers ignore the dangers that sleepiness can present when it comes to trucking and automobile accidents.

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