According to the Nevada Department of Transportation crash reports, there were 1,463 large truck accidents in 2010. Fatigue is consistently listed in the top 10 causes of commercial motor vehicle accidents, and federal guidelines have addressed the issue by limiting the number of hours tractor trailer operators can work. Although the workday is defined as 14 hours, only 11 of those may be spent on the road. These hours lead to long and taxing shifts, which are directly related to accident risks.
Truck driver behaviors often lead to sleep disorders
Even when truckers observe the federally mandated hours, they do not get enough sleep to prevent fatigue. However, the demanding schedules set by many trucking companies, the push to earn larger paychecks or the need to compensate for traffic issues cause many to adjust logbooks to allow for more hours on the road. Survey results published by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine showed that 10 percent of truck drivers get fewer than five hours of sleep each night. Thousands of truck drivers suffer from sleep disorders such as apnea and insomnia, which are often caused by the erratic schedules, poor food choices and sedentary nature of the job. These prevent the deep slumber required for full alertness during the day. Over time, the mental and physical health of a person often deteriorates. When it becomes difficult to fall asleep, many drivers may be tempted to spend the extra waking hours on the road. Lack of sleep often causes symptoms similar to alcohol consumption, including poor judgment and delayed reaction time. Drowsy drivers have a much higher potential for an accident.
Trucking companies often pressure drivers to disregard safety risks
The law states that a 10-hour rest period must be taken between jobs. When measuring the likelihood of a crash, two twelve-hour shifts have the same effect as six eight-hour shifts, but the effect on a truck driver’s schedule is drastically different The two longer driving periods require only 20 hours off the road, but shorter shifts and more frequent breaks add up to more expense and smaller paychecks. In an interview on 20/20, one tractor trailer operator explained that he was given a job that took an hour, and he was unable to spend 10 hours sleeping after a recent break. His next shift was much longer, and rather than fall asleep while driving, he requested a substitute. The company threatened they would penalize him because he did not get back out on the road. Trucking companies must create an environment that provides a reasonable schedule as well as following federal guidelines. When a driver is an accident due to fatigue, a Las Vegas injury attorney may be able to assist the victim in receiving full compensation from all responsible parties.