Errors by truck drivers are likely to cause trucking accidents. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that drivers of large trucks are ten times more likely to cause a trucking accident than other factors, such as weather, poor road conditions, or vehicle performance. The study also determined the most common causes of truck driver error. The study found that, of trucking accidents caused by truck driver error:
- 44% involved truckers who were taking prescription and over-the-counter-drugs
- 23% involved drivers traveling too fast for conditions, and
- 18% were caused by driver fatigue.
If you are involved in a trucking accident, you should investigate the driver’s conduct as well as the trucking company’s potential role in the accident. The trucking company could be responsible for hiring an incompetent driver, or violated federal rules regarding maximum hours a driver can work per shift.
Driver fatigue can contribute to truck driver error, since it causes the driver to be inattentive, misjudge gaps, and over or under react to a situation. Federal regulations, or the “hours of service” rules, are in place to make sure drivers get the necessary amount of restorative sleep in order to drive safely. These rules dictate that truck drivers can work a maximum of 14 hours per day, during which they can drive a maximum of 11 hours. In addition, the driver must have been off-duty for 10 consecutive hours before the start of their next shift, and they cannot drive after being on duty for 60 hours in seven consecutive days, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.
If you were in involved in a trucking accident where you suspect the truck driver may have been overly tired, investigate to see if these federal rules were violated. In order to find out if the hours of service rules were broken, you should obtain a copy of the truck driver’s logs.
Drug use is also a common cause of truck driver error. Drivers are forbidden from using any controlled substances, unless they are prescribed by a licensed physician who has confirmed that the drugs will not adversely impact the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Federal regulations require trucking companies to:
- test their drivers for alcohol and drug use as a condition of employment, and
- require periodic random tests of the drivers while they are on duty and after an accident involving a fatality.
Driver competence also can easily cause a trucking accident. Drivers can fail to watch blind spots, depower the front brakes, or improperly attach the truck trailer. If you are involved in a trucking accident, you should look into any of these causes.
Many trucking companies use electronic data event recorders, which record a variety of information about the truck and it’s operation, such as the speed, patterns of speed, when the driver used their brakes, and how long the driver has been on the road.
If you are in a trucking accident, make sure this device and any other equipment like a GPS, inclinometers, or on-board computer is preserved. It can contain vital information, but can also be routinely erased by the company.