Holding a Trucking Company Responsible When a Driver Falls Asleep
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is in charge of regulating the commercial trucking industry in the United States, and part of these regulations include outlining specific hours of service for drivers.
The federal government has implemented daily and weekly hours of service limitations for commercial vehicle drivers in an effort to curb fatigued driving of these larger vehicles. However, if an accident occurs because a commercial truck driver fell asleep at the wheel, victims should be able to hold the at-fault party accountable for their actions.
The Dangers of Fatigued Driving
A quick review of the Federal Highway Administration website shows that commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 when fully loaded. This is an astounding number, particularly when compared to traditional passenger vehicles that weigh around 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. When a large commercial truck comes into contact with these smaller vehicles, the results are often devastating.
We bring up the size and weight of commercial trucks to highlight the extreme dangers of fatigued driving. If a truck driver operates a vehicle when they are tired, they quickly become unable to respond to hazards on the roadway. They are less likely to abide by traffic laws. Operating a vehicle while fatigued can be just as dangerous as operating while distracted or impaired.
Truck drivers operate for long hours each day, and staying awake can become a challenge. That is why the FMCSA strictly regulates federal hours of service for truck drivers.
Drivers are allowed a 14-hour driving window each day, of which only 11 can be spent actually driving the commercial truck. Commercial truck drivers must have a 30-minute break if they have driven for a period of eight cumulative hours without a 30-minute interruption, and this rate can include any off-duty time such as meals, restroom breaks, sleeper birth breaks, etc.
During a seven-day work week, drivers cannot operate more than 60 hours behind the wheel. During an eight-day work week, drivers cannot operate more than 70 hours behind the wheel. These work weeks can be reset if a driver takes 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
Who Will Be Liable for a Driver Falling Asleep?
If a driver falls asleep behind the wheel and causes injuries or property damage to others, it is likely that they will be held liable for the incident. However, liability can be challenging in these situations, depending on whether or not the truck driver is an independent contractor or works for a larger company.
If the driver is an employee of a larger company, then it is likely the company will be held responsible for the incident. If the driver is an independent owner-operator, then they will have a substantial insurance policy designed to handle incidents like this.
However, proving liability after a truck crash is incredibly challenging, and we strongly encourage you to reach out to a truck accident lawyer in Sacramento as soon as possible. An attorney from Rosenthal Law will be by your side throughout the entire process. They will thoroughly investigate the incident and handle all communication with other parties. The goal is to recover compensation for your medical bills, property damage expenses, lost wages, along with pain and suffering damages.