The most-comprehensive study of why commercial truck and bus drivers cause crashes revealed that fatigue contributed to 13 percent of wrecks. Immediately following this on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s list of reason tractor-trailer and charter bus drivers crash was pressure from the driver’s employer to stick to a schedule.
Lack of sleep and spending too long behind the wheel without getting adequate rest topped both alcohol use and speeding as identified causes of crashes involving semis and tour buses. And when a driver falls asleep or loses focus behind the wheel of one of these large, heavy commercial vehicles, the results are often deadly.
- Determining Truck Driver’s Fatigue at the Time of a Crash
- Commercial Truck Driving and Sleep Apnea: A Deadly Combination
During 2016, the last year for which the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles has complete data, crashes involving large commercial trucks injured 2,653 people and left 152 others dead. Commercial and charter bus crashes caused five deaths in North Carolina that same year and inflicted serious injuries on 382 people.
Reducing truck crashes that kill and hospitalize people clearly requires keeping overtired and overworked commercial drivers off the road. Federal and state regulators have worked for decades to do that by imposing strict rules on drivers’ hours of operation.
The FMCSA currently restricts most commercial vehicle drivers who cross state lines to 11-hour shifts. Time behind the wheel must be interrupted by breaks, and at least eight hours of rest is required before any 11-hour shift starts. Under federal rules, interstate bus drivers must restrict themselves to 10 hours on duty after an extended rest of at least eight hours. Regardless of vehicle type, if a driver who is subject to federal hours of service rules can work more then 60 total hours during a seven-day period.
The North Carolina Depart of Transportation limits hours of service for large truck and bus drivers who operate only within the state. NCDOT’s rules are summarized in section 14B-07C.0101 of the NC Administrative Code, which reads
An intrastate motor carrier driver shall not drive more than 12 hours following eight consecutive hours off duty; for any period after having been on duty 16 hours following eight consecutive hours off duty; after having been on duty 70 hours in seven consecutive days; or more than 80 hours in eight consecutive days.
As North Carolina truck accident lawyers, my colleagues and I always check the logs and schedules of allegedly at-fault truck and bus drivers. Violating federal or state hours of service rules constitutes negligence or recklessness, which makes the commercial driver and, possibly, the driver’s employer liable for making personal injury or wrongful death payments.