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Truck driver fatigue remains a thorny problem

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict rules in place to ensure that truck drivers in California and around the country get adequate rest, but what are known as hours-of-service regulations do not seem to be enough to prevent commercial vehicle accidents caused by drowsiness. The commercial pressures of the logistics industry are often at odds with safety concerns, and this is especially true when it comes to combating fatigue.

The problem is a serious one for passenger vehicle occupants because fully laden semi-tractor trailers weigh up to 40 tons and are extremely dangerous when driven by a fatigued truck driver. More than 80 percent of the road users killed in truck accidents each year are cyclists, pedestrians or passenger vehicle occupants, and many of them fall victim to truck drivers who ignored hours-of-service regulations and remained behind the wheel and on duty despite being dangerously tired.

When asked about this problem, one in four truck drivers admitted to falling asleep while driving at least once during the previous month. Some of them also admitted to taking dangerous stimulants to keep them alert enough to finish their journeys. This is extremely dangerous as stimulants such as methamphetamine, cocaine and amphetamines impair cognitive functions and affect coordination, concentration and decision making. Truck drivers may also become extremely aggressive or fatigued when these drugs begin to wear off.

A major challenge facing auto accident investigators is that fatigue leaves few telltale signs; drowsy drivers who survive the crashes they caused have usually regained their faculties by the time first responders arrive at the scene. When their clients have been injured in a commercial vehicle accident that may have been caused by fatigue and police reports are inconclusive, experienced personal injury attorneys may check hours-of-service logs and truck GPS systems to find out how long the truck driver involved was on the road since their last rest break.

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