Fatigue, poor vehicle maintenance and impairment by drugs and alcohol make any driver a danger to themselves and others. When any of these major crash risks applies to a tractor-trailer or other large commercial vehicle, the stage is set for serious injuries and loss of life.
- Driver Distraction a Major Cause of Truck Crashes
- What Truck Drivers’ Hours of Service Rules Can Mean for Your Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case
- How Common Are Drunk Driving Accidents With Injuries?
As personal injury and wrongful death attorneys with offices in Virginia and North Carolina, my colleagues and I have helped victims of truck drivers who fell asleep at the wheel, operated unsafe rigs and hit the road while under the influence. Not only is each a preventable danger, federal and state laws exist to prevent their prevalence.
Under hours of service rules enforced the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the departments of transportation in Virginia and North Carolina, commercial truck drivers must limit their time behind the wheel. Mandatory eight-hour breaks must be taken every day, and shorter rest periods are required throughout the workday.
Paper and electronic logs record the breaks, and falsifying such records can constitute a criminal offense. As representatives for people who get injured or killed by fatigued truck drivers, we use every legal tactic to obtain driver logs.
Lack of sleep has been shown to be as dangerous as drunk or drugged driving. Commercial drivers are subject to random alcohol and drug testing, and they must submit blood and urine samples as part of regular physical exams to maintain their CDLs. As an added precaution, both Virginia and North Carolina set the legal limit for a commercial truck driver’s blood alcohol concentration at .04.
Of course, even the most-well-rested and sober truck driver can only properly control a big rig when all the equipment is in proper repair and good working order. Again, the FMCSA and state DOTs required tractors, trailers and single-unit trucks to pass regular inspections. Commercial trucks are also subject to roadside inspections and unannounced checks at weigh stations.
Inspectors cannot be everywhere at all times, however, and many of the rules regarding repairing and replacing damaged or old tires, brakes and steering and suspension parts are self-enforced. Trucking companies may put off maintenance and falsify reports. The consequences of a blown tire or failed braking system cannot be overlooked.