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How Can an Attorney Prove Truck Driver Fatigue?

How Can an Attorney Prove Truck Driver Fatigue?

An 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer Knows What to Look for to Prove Trucker Fatigue

Fatigue can dangerously diminish motorists’ performance. In fact, at least 1 in every 8 truck accidents involves a commercial driver who was fatigued at the time of the wreck, the latest data shows. Tragically, these crashes are preventable.

Whenever a drowsy trucker causes an accident, it often takes additional investigations to uncover proof of fatigue and negligence. Here’s what a truck accident lawyer knows and can do when it’s time to prove driver fatigue has caused tractor-trailer wrecks and injuries.

The Dangers of Trucker Fatigue & How It Causes Crashes

Trucker fatigue is simply tiredness that results from mental and physical exertion. It’s so dangerous because it causes similar impairments to intoxication and distraction. Specifically, fatigue can delay reaction times and impair perception. It can also cause commercial drivers to fall asleep behind the wheel. Any one of those factors can lead to 18-wheeler accidents, catastrophic injuries, and death.

Statistics on the dangers of trucker fatigue paint a clear picture of just how dangerous it can be:

  • Being awake for 18 hours can produce the same impairments as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent. That is double the legal limit of 0.04 for commercial drivers.
  • Drowsiness has caused about 3 in every 4 truckers and commercial drivers to make at least one mistake behind the wheel.

Federal Regulations Addressing Trucker Fatigue

Regulators at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recognize the dangers of trucker fatigue and have taken action to try to prevent it. This includes enacting hours of service (HOS) regulations that limit driving and on-duty time for truckers.

Truck drivers are required to comply with HOS rules, maintaining detailed logbooks to document and prove compliance. Motor carriers also have compliance requirements in that they must ensure their drivers are abiding by these federal trucking regulations.

4 Ways a Truck Accident Lawyer Can Prove Fatigue

Many facts of a crash can point to trucker fatigue as a possible cause. Here’s where 18-wheeler accident attorneys start to look—and what they look for—when they are trying to find evidence of trucker fatigue after a wreck. 

1. The Police Report

The truck accident police report can detail the officer’s observations and findings regarding the condition of each involved party, including the trucker. This can include important details, like whether a truck driver:

  • Had a drowsy appearance: Red, bloodshot eyes, excessive blinking, and even yawning can all point to fatigue. So can forgetfulness, wandering thoughts, a lack of focus, and irritability.
  • Admitted to being awake or behind the wheel for extended periods: Sometimes, drivers may directly tell police that they were tired or that they had been driving for long amounts of time prior to a crash. If they do, police will note these admissions in the police report.

2. The Time of Day

For truckers and any motorists, studies have shown that time of day plays a far bigger role in driver alertness than time on task. In fact, most drivers are not as alert during the nighttime. That’s especially true after midnight (between about 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.).

So, the time of day or night that a tractor-trailer accident occurred can, in itself, be a red flag that trucker fatigue may have been involved in causing a wreck.

3. A Driver’s Failure to Prevent the Truck Accident

Accident-avoidance maneuvers can include slamming on the brakes and trying to veer away from an impending collision. If truckers were drowsy at the time of the crash, they likely did not try to avoid the wreck until the last minute. If they were asleep, they may have not tried to avoid the collision at all.

Tire tread marks on the street, witness statements, dashcam footage, and data from electronic onboard recorders can show how, when, or whether truckers tried to avoid an accident. If accident-avoidance maneuvers happened too late or not at all, that’s a strong sign that trucker fatigue may have been involved in a truck accident.

4. The Trucker Logbooks

Written or electronic logbooks should detail a trucker’s on-duty time, as well as his or her time behind the wheel. While logbooks alone may reveal HOS violations or the possibility of driving while fatigued, it’s important to remember that logbooks are not always accurate. Some drivers and motor carriers find ways to work around the rules. They may doctor logbooks, or there may be two sets of books. 

Crosschecking logbook records with information from timesheets and GPS systems can help weed out inaccurate data, helping to uncover when fatigue may have been involved in a wreck.

How to Prove Trucker Fatigue: The Bottom Line

Establishing truck driver fatigue after a tractor-trailer crash can demand additional investigations, careful analysis of the evidence, and a keen eye. It can also require knowledge of trucking regulations and the ability to secure key evidence before it’s lost or destroyed.

An experienced truck accident lawyer will know where to look, what to look for, and how to preserve essential evidence when it’s time to prove driver fatigue and recover from an 18-wheeler wreck.