Truck Driver Fatigue

Motor Vehicle Collision Attorney Assisting Residents of the Albuquerque Area

There is a particularly high volume of 18-wheelers, semi-trucks, and transfer trucks on the interstates in New Mexico. Two of the busiest highways in the Southwest, Interstate 40 and Interstate 25, intersect in Albuquerque. Several other very busy roadways lie in the surrounding area, including Highways 285, 550, and 60. The safety and well-being of New Mexico residents who must share the road with commercial vehicles depends in large part on the driving habits and practices of the truck drivers who work on these roads. These drivers must take appropriate rest breaks and observe laws concerning the maximum number of working hours. Unfortunately, truckers can be just as careless or reckless as others who do not make their living behind the wheel, especially when fatigue is a factor. When a crash involves a large truck, it is about ten times more likely to result in a fatality. Anywhere from one-fifth to one-half of crashes involving large trucks and truckers involve driver fatigue. Simply put, it is against the law for a truck driver to drive when he or she is so fatigued that they cannot drive safely. If you have been hurt in a crash caused by driver fatigue, Albuquerque truck accident lawyer Matthew Vance can help you seek compensation for your injuries. Attorney Matt Vance works to hold truck drivers and trucking companies responsible when they are negligent by making them financially accountable for the harms they cause.

Holding a Negligent Trucker Accountable for Damages

Lawsuits against truck drivers and trucking companies are usually based on the law of negligence. To make out a case of negligence, a plaintiff must show four things, and each must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. First, there must be a demonstration that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim. Second, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached this duty. There also must be a link of causation between the breach of duty and the accident in which the victim was hurt. Finally, the plaintiff needs to prove that he or she incurred actual damages as a result.

Driver fatigue has been around as long as long haul trucking; miles and hours stacked upon hours to drive loads across the country. The trucking industry and professional drivers have known for a long time that a sleepy or drowsy commercial motor vehicle driver represents a deadly danger to other motorists on the roadways and to themselves. The transportation and shipping industry grapples with this known threat to safety with an abundance of information from sleep specialists and training materials that can be provided to trucking companies and to their truck drivers. This wealth of information and materials includes the North American Fatigue Management Program (NAFMP). The NAFMP is a website that provides education and training materials to help reduce bus and semi driver fatigue, and related crashes. Drivers can register at the website for free and work through the online training modules. It's a valuable tool that is readily available. Its aim is to educate drivers and companies regarding the danger of driver fatigue and reduce drowsy driver related crashes and deaths.

While the risk of drowsy and tired drivers is known throughout the trucking industry, transport companies still push their professional drivers to the edge and beyond. Incentive programs that push drivers physically, like pay per mile or incentive programs tied to delivery times, create a dangerous tension between profits and safety. Some truckers drive by mottos like, "if the wheels aren't turn'in, then you aren't earn'in." Trucking company dispatchers can operate as cruel task masters and verbally whip drivers into getting back on the road despite fatigue. It's not just missing sleep on one night or occasion, truckers can be pushed into a place of sleep deprivation and sleep deficits, which accumulate over time. As the sleep deprivation and deficits build, so too does the danger.

The duty element of a truck driver negligence case may be established by using the deep knowledge base of the trucking industry when it comes to sleep and driver fatigue. Professional drivers and trucking companies must take reasonable precautions to avoid foreseeable risks of harm to others, including training and effective practices related to driver operation of tractor-trailers when fatigued. The duty element may also be established by using state or federal statutes or regulations. One of the common ways in which a semi driver may breach the duty of care is by violating federal or state regulations on hours of service. Hours of service can be roughly defined as the amount of time a professional driver can drive balanced with reasonable time for rest and sleep. Federal and state regulations are in place because government entities which oversee the industry also recognize the risk of sleep deprived drivers. If a commercial driver spends too long behind the wheel in a given day or week, he or she likely will lose the degree of focus needed to operate such a massive, potentially dangerous vehicle. Reasonable and careful drivers would not be expected, by themselves or the companies they work for, to break the rules that govern the industry or drive when they are exhausted, since this behavior is known to be unsafe.

When accidents happen involving a drowsy driver or fatigued driver, a negligent trucker or negligent trucking company can potentially be held accountable for an injured person’s damages. These damages may include hospital and doctor bills, lost income due to temporary or permanent disability, property damage, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and any other costs or losses that may have arisen from the collision. An injured person may often be able to name the trucking company that employed the trucker as an additional defendant in the case, based on the company’s vicarious liability for workers who are acting in the scope of their job duties at the time of an accident or through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). Additionally, the trucking company itself may be responsible if it did not provide adequate training to its driver regarding the known danger of driver sleepiness and fatigue, or if it did not reasonably supervise its driver in regard to hours of service. If the trucker or trucking company was reckless, possibly by falsifying log books, pushing drivers recklessly, or driving far in excess of hours of service, there may be a claim for punitive damages - damages meant to punish someone for reckless, willful, wanton conduct.

Consult an Albuquerque Lawyer after a Truck Accident

If you or a loved one has been struck by a fatigued truck driver, you need assertive and compassionate representation. You should consult an attorney who you can trust to give your case the attention that it deserves and fight hard to help you pursue the maximum amount of damages to which you may be entitled. Albuquerque personal injury attorney Matthew Vance is a lifelong New Mexico resident who has been helping accident and catastrophic injury victims throughout the state assert their rights. He represents injured individuals in Albuquerque, Gallup, Grants, Tucumcari, Roswell, Farmington, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and other cities across the state. Call us at (505) 242-6267 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. We are available in the evenings and on weekends, and we will not ask you to pay a fee unless we are able to recover compensation for you.