Do you have any idea how long the commercial truck driver that passes you on an Indiana highway has been behind the wheel of that 18-wheeler? Would it surprise you to learn that a trucker can drive up to 11 hours legally and many disregard the time limits and drive for even longer stretches?
Indiana Truck Drivers: A Quick Overview
Long-haul truck drivers are known for keeping long hours to meet deadlines and deliver freight and other goods. What is less well-known is that many commercial truck drivers spend too much time behind the wheel and routinely endanger themselves and everyone around them.
Driving a tractor-trailer demands alertness and constant vigilance of constantly changing traffic conditions around the truck. Driving drowsy or fatigued is dangerous. Truckers who operate with too little sleep frequently get into truck accidents.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers involved in truck crashes were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says its surveys of truck drivers indicate that many drivers violate federal limits on driving time — known as Hours of Service (HOS) regulations —and drive for longer than permitted in single stretches. Researchers with the IIHS found that truck drivers who reported HOS violations were more likely to report having fallen asleep behind the wheel during the prior month.
Harm Caused by Sleepy or Drowsy Truck Drivers, Causing Indianapolis Car Accidents
Consider the damage a drowsy driver behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer can cause.
A commercial truck weighs 10,000 pounds and upward. If loaded with cargo, it can weigh up to 80,000 pounds legally in Indiana — or more with proper permits. The average passenger vehicle weighs just under 4,000 pounds.
An 18-wheeler is moving at 70 mph along Interstate 65 in Indianapolis with a drowsy driver at the wheel. After many hours of driving without adequate rest, the fatigued trucker’s reaction time, judgment and decision-making are all compromised.
If the truck driver blanks out or falls asleep behind the wheel, he or she is traveling 102.6 feet per second – covering the length of a football field in less than 3 seconds.
Since the fatigued trucker does not react quickly enough to slow the vehicle, the loaded truck will hurl into whatever lies ahead at full speed. The result is likely to be horrendous.
The occupants of a car that is hit by a commercial truck will be fortunate to survive the collision and may sustain serious injuries.
Smaller vehicles generally absorb the brunt of the damage in crashes with 18 wheelers. In fatal truck accidents in 2014, 83 percent of the people fatally injured in crashes involving large truck were occupants of passenger vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. Only 17 percent of people who died in fatal truck accidents in 2014 were occupants of the large trucks involved in the wrecks.
What’s Being Done about Indiana Truck Crashes Caused by Fatigue?
The trucking industry adopted new HOS regulations in July 2013 that reduced the amount of time a trucker could spend behind the wheel without a break and rest period. The new rules limit the average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, down from the previous maximum of 82 hours.
The new HOS regulations prescribe an 11-hour workday for commercial motor vehicle drivers, with a daily driving limit of 14 hours. They require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense. The drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.
Most commercial truck drivers still record their hours behind the wheel on paper logs. The FMCSA is working to implement a new electronic logging device (ELD) rule by December 2017. An ELD synchronizes with the vehicle’s engine to automatically record driving time, resulting in a more accurate record of the time drivers spend behind the wheel.
Trucking companies that already use ELDs that do not meet the technology requirements of the FMCSA’s final rule will have until December 2019 to comply.
Has a Drowsy Truck Driver Harmed You in a Car Accident?
If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a preventable truck accident in Indiana, you should get help investigating the cause of the accident. If the trucker was fatigued or the driver and/or the trucking company was negligent, Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC, an Indiana law firm that focuses on truck accident cases, may be able to obtain compensation for you.
There are several ways a truck accident investigation can indicate whether a crash may have been caused by fatigue or a drowsy driver. For instance, the black box recording device, which is in all commercial trucks, may show a failure to slow or brake at the time of the accident. Other records, such as traffic cameras, and even E-Z Pass toll records, may show the driver’s extended time on the road.
A key to a successful truck accident personal injury or wrongful death claim is starting an independent investigation by knowledgeable truck accident lawyers as soon as possible after an accident occurs. It is critically important to identify and preserve evidence to support your accident claim before it is lost.
Contact Indiana Car Accident Lawyers & Truck Accident Attorneys
We urge you to call our accident lawyers today for a free legal consultation if you believe you or a loved one has an accident case against a trucking company.
Our firm has received many prestigious awards, including the 2015 Litigator Award, which we also received in 2014, and listed among the 10 Best Law Firms of 2015 by the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys. Our lawyers have been awarded Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent® Rating, 10.0 Superb Rating on Avvo, and membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum® and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum®. If you have been injured, Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC has an award-winning team ready to help you and your family.