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Truck Driver Fatigue and Crashes

Ever single serious personal injury or wrongful death truck accident case we investigate is carefully reviewed for driver fatigue. Our injury lawyers recognize truck drivers are often sleep deprived and operate semi-trucks when it is unsafe, often in violation of the federal regulations limiting the hours a driver can be on-duty or driving.

One of the first things our personal injury lawyers do upon receipt of a new truck accident case is send a preservation of evidence letter to the owner of the truck, the driver, and any company who is in charge of the truck through a leasing arrangement.

Leasing a truck to an operator is very common in the trucking industry and is vital to understanding liability in a truck accident case. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations, the Department of Transportation Number or “placard” of the company in charge of the tractor – trailer unit must display their unique six digit DOT number on the side of the truck. Most of the time, this number can be found on the drivers’ and passengers’ doors.

Initially, after a serious truck crash, it is virtually impossible to determine who is responsible for what. Often times, the initial investigation only reveals the name of the driver and the DOT or ICC numbers registered to the truck. Our law firm has access to databases to retrieve additional information not accessible to the general public. Through this investigation, we can place all entitles and persons on notice to preserve evidence, as this ensures vital evidence is preserved and will and will eventually aid in the investigation of your truck accident claim.

Under Federal Motor Carrier Regulation 395.3(a)(2), truck drivers are only allowed to be on duty for a period of 14 consecutive hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. Because of inadequate training by most employers, many truck drivers do not realize on duty time includes any time the driver takes some off-duty time for a break during that 14 hour period. The only way to extend this 14 hour period is to record sleeper berth time.

Of the 14 hours of on-duty time, Federal Motor Carrier Regulation 395.3(a)(1) states truck drivers may only operate the truck for a total of 11 hours. Once drivers hit the 11 hour maximum, they must stop operation of their tractor-trailer and be off duty for another 10 consecutive hours before driving again. Many truckers have excuse after excuse for violating of this rule. However, the laws are strict and there is no excuse for violation of these life-saving rules.

Beyond the above regulations, there are additional hours of service limits for truckers. The “60/70 Rule” limits how many hours truck drivers may operate commercial motor vehicles during the work week. Truck companies can put their drivers on either a 7 day or 8 day driving period. Drivers are allowed to operate for 60 hours for the 7 day week and 70 hours for the 8 day week.

Once it is determined a driver has violated the hours of service regulations, we can file a claim for negligence per se. This means liability is proved by the violation of the regulation. This avoids having to prove negligence- that the driver failed to use the highest degree of care.

If you are on a Missouri highway and see a truck driver swerving within his or her lane, making sudden or erratic maneuvers, or driving dangerously, we suggest you immediately contact the authorities and report the truck. By taking proactive measures like this, you can prevent serious tractor trailer accidents on Missouri roadways by fatigued drivers.