If you have ever embarked on a long-distance road trip, you know that it is sometimes necessary to pull over and take an occasional break to stretch your legs, eat a warm meal, or even catch up on sleep after a long day of driving.
For many long-distance truck drivers, however, these necessities are considered unaffordable luxuries on the roadway. As a result, fatigued driving remains a major cause of fatal trucking accidents.
Although federal and state regulations called "hours-of-service" laws exist to govern how long a trucker can operate a rig before stopping to take a break, some truckers say that these laws fail to effectively address the demanding realities faced by truckers on the open road.
Truck drivers often face pressure from companies to deliver their loads as quickly as possible, and that this pressure often competes with the need to take a break from driving and catch up on rest.
Data from the National Transportation Safety Board further highlights the scope of the problem, suggesting that as many as 30 to 40 percent of heavy truck accidents may be related to truck driver fatigue.
Daphne Izer, who founded Parents Against Tired Truckers after her son was killed in a car accident involving a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel, has emphasized this point. She says that hours-of-service rules are often ignored because "loads have to be delivered at any cost." Unfortunately, the cost is often the life of an innocent motorist.
According to the Truck Safety Coalition, another contributing factor in these deadly truck accidents is that finding places to stop and take breaks required by federal and state hours-of-service laws isn't always easy. Truck stops have limited available space, and some states don't allow truckers to pull into rest stops and sleep.
While timely deliveries will always remain a priority for trucking companies, hours-of-service laws are not negotiable. Negligent parties, including commercial carriers exerting pressure on fatigued drivers, should be held accountable when fatigued driving results in the death of an innocent motorist, and a wrongful death lawsuit may be an appropriate step in seeking compensation for such a tragic accident.