Signs of Truck Driver Fatigue

truck accidents | November 15, 2023

Commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded with cargo. Anytime these larger vehicles are involved in collisions with other cars on the roadway, there is a potential for significant injuries and property damage. Because of these risks, there is strict regulation on the hours of service for truck drivers laid forth by the federal government. These hours of service are designed to prevent fatigued truck drivers. However, not all truck driver fatigue accidents are prevented, and we believe it is important for you to know what the signs of truck driver fatigue look like so you can increase your safety on the roadways.

13% of commercial truck collisions reported are caused by truck driver fatigue

Recognizing Truck Driver Fatigue on the Roadway

Approximately 13% of commercial motor vehicle collisions reported are caused by truck driver fatigue, according to information available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This is the same agency that places strict regulations on the total hours of service that drivers can operate during a work day and during an overall work week. The hours of service also stipulate the timing of driver brakes during each operating day.

Why are these strict regulations on hours of service necessary for commercial truck drivers?

The reality is that these drivers operate incredibly large vehicles that present major hazards on the roadway. Any collision with a larger commercial truck is likely to lead to significant property damage and personal injuries for those in smaller vehicles involved. The federal government and the state government of California have a vested interest in ensuring the safety of commercial vehicles.

According to the FMCSA, research indicates that being awake for 18 straight hours is comparable to a person having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08%, which is the legal limit for regular drivers on California roadways and double the legal limit of alcohol for commercial truck drivers.

Truck driver fatigue can have many adverse effects on a person’s ability to operate a commercial vehicle. A fatigued truck driver could have some or all of the following:

  • Slowed reaction times and reflexes
  • Impaired judgment or memory
  • Increased distractibility
  • A heightened risk of falling asleep behind the wheel

The main signs associated with a fatigued commercial truck driver include:

  • Erratic acceleration or braking
  • Extended stops at stop signs or stoplights
  • Failing to stop at stop signs or stop lights
  • Slowed reaction times to changing roadway situations
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Drifting in and out of the correct lane
  • Jerking or swerving motions
  • Making multiple corrections in a short period of time
  • Following other vehicles too closely
  • A complete loss of control of the vehicle

The Hours of Service

Commercial truck drivers in California who operate across state lines have the following limits for their work day or work week:

  • Drivers can operate for 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty from 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Of these 14 hours, commercial truck drivers can only drive the vehicle for 11 total hours.
  • Drivers must have a 30-minute break after having driven for eight cumulative hours without a previous 30-minute interruption.
  • During a seven-day work week, drivers are limited to 60 total operating hours.
  • During an eight-day work week, drivers are limited to 70 total operating hours.
  • Drivers can restart a seven or eight-day work week by taking off 34 more consecutive hours.

Working With a Truck Accident Lawyer

If you or somebody you care about has been injured in a commercial truck accident in California, and you suspect truck driver fatigue played a role in the incident, we encourage you to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. A skilled Sacramento truck accident attorney can examine the facts of your case and help you determine the next steps for recovering compensation. These claims can be incredibly challenging, but an attorney will handle the investigation, negotiation, and any trial preparation necessary on your behalf.