Truck Driver Fatigue and How to Prevent It

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fatigue truck driver accident lawyer grand rapids

Truck driver fatigue is a serious hazard on Michigan roads. Truckers are no different from non-commercial drivers in their need for sleep. But the lifestyle of a truck driver doesn’t match up well with the sleep patterns of the average individual. Many commercial drivers work long hours and overnight shifts, putting them at a higher risk of causing fatigue-related accidents.

Recognizing the dangers of drowsy driving, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes strict regulations for truck driver fatigue management. But sometimes, truck companies pressure drivers to violate these rules ― and when those actions lead to a collision, injured victims have the right to hold them accountable for their recklessness.

Did you or a loved one suffer injuries in a fatigued truck driving accident? Get help from a Grand Rapids truck accident lawyer at Christensen Law today. Our acclaimed personal injury law firm fights for the rights of injured Michiganders just like you. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.

How is Truck Driver Fatigue Defined in Grand Rapids, Michigan?

FMCSA defines truck driver fatigue as “the result of physical or mental exertion that impairs performance.” Common causes of fatigue include:

  • Poor sleep
  • Sleep loss
  • Long working hours
  • Stress
  • Meeting strenuous physical, mental, or cognitive demands
  • Performing repetitive tasks
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Eating heavy meals
  • Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea

Research indicates that commercial drivers, particularly long-haul truckers, are among the most vulnerable groups for fatigued driving, along with shift workers, parents of infants and young children, teen drivers, and inexperienced drivers.

Truck Driving Fatigue Symptoms

Fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. The effects on the body and driving performance are similar. Tired truck drivers may suffer from:

  • Inattentiveness
  • Slower reaction times
  • Impaired judgment
  • Lack of awareness and poor vision
  • Increased risk of falling asleep

Recognizing the signs of drowsy driving is an essential step toward prevention. Watch for these warning signs of long-distance driving fatigue:

  • Frequent yawning
  • Excessive blinking
  • Burning sensation in eyes
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Head bobbing
  • Memory lapses or feeling “zoned”
  • Drifting between lanes
  • No memory of the last few miles you’ve driven
  • Periods of “microsleep,” or intervals of sleep that last for a few seconds at a time

Federal truck driver fatigue laws prohibit truck drivers from operating a commercial motor vehicle while tired (49 CFR § 392.3). They must pull over as soon as it’s safe. The law also forbids trucking companies from encouraging their drivers to start a shift if they are too tired or sick to drive safely.

Truck Accident Statistics in Grand Rapids, Michigan

According to the Michigan Department of Motor Vehicles, truck driver fatigue is a factor in at least 15 percent of heavy truck accidents. More precise drowsy truck driving accident statistics are hard to come by. That’s because drowsy driving is an underreported problem in the United States.

However, data does show a staggering number of large truck accidents in Michigan every year. Preliminary FMCSA statistics for 2021 show that:

  • More than 4,800 large truck accidents occurred on Michigan roads.
  • In those collisions, over 80 people died, and 1,315 suffered injuries.

Michigan State Police figures on trucking accidents paint a similarly disturbing picture for The Great Lakes State. Statistics for 2020 (the latest year for which data is available) report that:

  • Over 5,100 crashes involved a heavy truck.
  • Truck accidents accounted for 72 fatal crashes and more than 2,000 injury collisions.

If you or a family member was hurt or killed in a truck accident in Grand Rapids, an experienced personal injury attorney from Christensen Law can investigate the case and build a solid claim for maximum compensation.

Who Are the Responsible Parties in a Fatigued Truck Driver Accident?

Truck drivers must follow federal Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations dictating how long they can remain on duty before resting. These rules are mandatory, but it doesn’t stop some truck drivers and trucking companies from breaking them.

Generally, at least two parties may be liable in a fatigued truck driving accident. These include:

  • The truck driver, if they intentionally violated HOS rules or got behind the wheel without enough sleep
  • The truck company, if it encouraged the trucker to drive despite feeling fatigued or offered incentives for the driver to reach a destination early
  • There may also be more responsible parties in a trucking case that will not be found until a thorough legal investigation is completed

In any truck accident claim, proving liability requires substantial proof, especially because these cases tend to have a higher dollar value. An attorney can help you collect compelling evidence to prove your case to the insurance company, judge, or jury.

Steps to Prevent Truck Driving Fatigue

Commercial drivers must do everything possible to combat sleepiness behind the wheel. Here are tips on how to fight fatigue as a truck driver:

  • Get at least eight or nine hours of sleep per night.
  • Wear sunglasses to prevent eye strain and shield you from glare.
  • Schedule rest stops every 100 miles or two hours.
  • Avoid heavy meals while driving.
  • Keep cool by running the air conditioner or opening the windows.
  • Remember: Changing time zones can disrupt your sleep patterns.
  • Don’t rely on caffeine to pull you through a drowsy spell. The only solution for fatigue is getting enough sleep.
  • Avoid medications that cause drowsiness.

Should I Hire a Truck Accident Attorney in Grand Rapids?

If a drowsy truck driver seriously hurt you, Michigan law allows you to pursue compensation for your financial and personal losses. But truck accident cases can get complicated, particularly ones involving truck driver fatigue. You’ll need strong proof that the driver was drowsy to win your case.

Not many truckers are going to admit they were tired. And a truck company won’t say it urged its driver to break the law. A Grand Rapids truck accident attorney can help you gather evidence to prove your case. Witness statements, traffic camera footage, and electronic logging devices (ELDs) can tell the story when drivers and companies won’t confess the truth.

Reach out to Christensen Law today. You’ll get a free consultation with a top truck accident lawyer who will listen to your story and discuss your legal options. We want to make things as simple as possible for you, so we can talk by phone, virtually, or wherever is most comfortable for you. Call or contact us now to get started.