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The Role of Unrealistic Schedules in Texas Truck Accidents

Unrealistic Schedules Can Increase the Risk of Trucker Fatigue & 18-Wheeler Wrecks

Scheduling is vital to the trucking industry. In fact, it plays a critical role in everything from operating costs and profitability to safety and compliance with federal trucking regulations. While many motor carriers are diligent about creating practical, compliant schedules for their fleets and truck drivers, others are not. When those profit-focused trucking companies set unrealistic schedules, they can:

  1. Put truckers in a tough spot: Truck drivers can feel a lot of pressure to meet the demands of unrealistic schedules. That could push them to make risky, accident-causing choices behind the wheel.

  2. Unnecessarily threaten others on Texas’s roads: Overscheduled and overworked truckers may not be as responsive, attentive, or safe while driving.

Looking at how and why unrealistic scheduling occurs in the trucking industry, the following will also address how this form of negligence can (and often does) contribute to serious tractor-trailer accidents in Texas.

What Is an Unrealistic Schedule for Truckers?

Unrealistic schedules refer to any driving plan or timetable that prevents truckers from complying with federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules. Those regulations restrict driving time while requiring 30-minute breaks and minimum rest periods, as well as establishing special rules for adverse weather. The purpose of HOS rules is to limit truckers’ time behind the wheel to ensure they have sufficient rest in between driving shifts.

Consequently, unrealistic schedules can come in a several different forms, including (but not limited to) schedules that:

  • Do not allow for 30-minute breaks after 8 hours of driving
  • Force truckers to drive more than 60/70hours within 7 to 8 consecutive days
  • Prevent truckers from taking any time off between hauls (i.e., back-to-back hauls)
  • Compel truck drivers to continue driving in adverse weather
  • Fail to provide sufficient time for pre-shift truck safety inspections
  • Do not offer any flexibility based on unforeseen issues, like mechanical issues with trucks, roadway construction and route detours, or unexpected weather events

Depending on the trucking company, unrealistic schedules may be enforced via the carrot or stick — meaning motor carriers may:

  • Incentivize truckers to push themselves to meet their unrealistic timetables
  • Penalize truckers who don’t cut corners or break the law to comply with the demands of unrealistic schedules

What Are the Risks of Unrealistic Trucking Schedules?

Trucker fatigue is the number one danger resulting from unrealistic schedules. And it’s a major problem that can cause deadly wrecks in Texas and across the U.S. In fact, according to the latest data:

  • Fatigue is among the top 10 causes of 18-wheeler accidents when the critical cause of the wreck is linked to the big rig or its driver.

  • Driving after 18 hours of no sleep can create impairments similar to those drivers experience with BACs of 0.05, which is over the legal limit of 0.04 for commercial drivers’ license (CDL) holders.

  • After 24 hours of no sleep, drivers can exhibit the same impairments as if they had a BAC of 0.08 — or double the legal limit for truckers (and the legal limit for passenger vehicle drivers).

  • Each year, driver fatigue on the part of truckers and other motorists contributes to more than 83,000 traffic crashes.

Because tired and drowsy drivers tend to experience reaction time delays, perception impairments, and poor judgment, the crashes they end up causing tend to be serious. That’s because these drivers typically don’t take any (or enough) action to avoid or mitigate the impact in the seconds before these wrecks happen.

Did Unrealistic Scheduling or Trucker Fatigue Cause My 18-Wheeler Crash?

The facts and evidence of your crash can help you answer this question. So can an experienced 18-wheeler accident lawyer. That’s because you may need to look at various items and potential evidence to figure out if unrealistic schedules and trucker fatigue were factors in your big rig wreck. Specifically, those items may include (and are not limited to):

  • Electronic onboard logging devices, which can detail driving time and how long a given 18-wheeler has been on the roads

  • Dashcam footage, which may show a truck driver’s drooping eyelids or bobbing head prior to a crash

  • Motor carriers’ policies and schedules, which can reveal when trucking companies may have violated federal HOS rules and/or encouraged (or forced) their drivers to do the same

  • Eyewitness and/or expert witness statements, which may help fill in the blanks about exactly how a truck wreck occurred

  • Debris at the scene, which may show how the impact(s) happened while possibly showing a lack of accident avoidance (though an absence of tire tread marks on the blacktop, for instance)

You can get help determining what caused your tractor-trailer wreck and who’s liable for it from a Texas truck accident attorney. That can be your best bet for uncovering all of your options for recovery and making negligent parties pay for the harm they’ve caused.