The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has put strict limits on how long a trucker can be behind the wheel in a single shift. Or have they? By exploiting loopholes in the federal regulations, trucking companies and their truckers can find ways to put their vehicles on the highways for extended periods of time. Many truckers are out on the road for so long during one shift, extreme fatigue can set in.
When a trucker is fatigued, their reaction time to obstacles ahead of them will increase dramatically, putting themselves and everyone around them at risk of a truck accident. If the exhaustion is too great, they may even fall asleep behind the wheel, effectively turning their 18-wheeler into a runaway freight train. Illegitimate business practices that have truckers working prolonged shifts are absolutely inexcusable, but the standards set by the FMCSA might not be much better.
How Long Can a Trucker Work in a Day?
According to the FMCSA, most commercial truckers are not allowed to work more than 14 hours in a day, and 11 of those hours must be spent on break or not driving. This is not someone’s idea of what the maximum amount of hours a truck driver can work, mind you – this is a federal mandate considered to be “safe.” If you were to ask someone to drive 11 hours in a single day with only brief periodic breaks, they would outright refuse. And yet truck drivers are expected to do just this every time they clock in.
To make matters worse, they can legally be given 5 shifts a week for a total of 70 hours on the clock and 55 behind the wheel. Anyone will begin to feel tired after 50+ hours of work, even if they are not controlling an 80,000 pound vehicle. The regulations go on to say that 10 hours must exist between shifts but this does not account for travel time between the truck’s final destination and the trucker’s home. In a news story that shocked the nation in 2014, popular comedian Tracy Morgan was critically injured in a truck accident caused by a trucker who hadn’t slept for more than 25 hours before the collision due to necessary travel time from home to the depot.
If truck accidents are really to be eliminated nationwide, the FMSCA will need to reevaluate its regulations and take additional steps to enforce them. And those who have been injured in a truck accident will need to continue to use legal action to hold the negligent parties accountable. If you have been hurt by a trucker who was exhausted behind the wheel, contact our award-winning team of Lakeland truck accident attorneys at Lilly, O’Toole & Brown, LLP. We offer contingency fee agreements so you don’t have to worry about paying anything upfront or out of pocket for our services – we only get paid if we win you a settlement! Call (888) 752-0533 today to learn more.