Articles Posted in Truck Driver Fatigue

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18-wheeler wrecks are some of the most devastating out there today. While any type of motor vehicle accident can cause someone involved to get hurt, serious injuries are more common to arise when at least one vehicle involved is a big rig truck. Whether it’s the heavy weight, size, or force of impact, it is not uncommon for truck wreck victims to get hurt. If you or a loved one is going through the aftermath of one of these accidents, undoubtedly there is a lot going through your head. When can you get back to work? When will you get better? Who will take care of household responsibilities? Who will pay for medical bills?

While all of this is going through your head, you should first realize time is not always on your side. All states have strict statutes of limitation within which a lawsuit must be filed. Further, big trucking companies often begin investigating the accident almost immediately, which means they can start gathering evidence and building their defense. Why should you get a lawyer after an 18-wheeler accident? Consider the following ways in which an experienced attorney can help you.

Identify All Liable Parties

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USA Today conducted a comprehensive investigation into a subset of the trucking industry in the United States – port truckers employed by trucking companies who transport goods across the country on behalf of many of the largest retailers in the United States, including Target, Home Depot, and Costco. Many of the trucking companies studied were based in California and employed low-income immigrants, some of which speak little to no English. Journalists reviewed testimony in labor dispute cases, contracts, and statements made by over 300 truck drivers. The research revealed that many truckers are overworked and in debt, both of which ultimately affect their driving performance.

One common theme showed that these companies used tactics to force drivers to finance their trucks themselves, even if it meant taking out debt that they could not afford. Knowing that the driver was over-extended in debt, executives from the company exerted that leverage on the employees to work longer shifts. If a trucker quit, the company could keep the truck, meaning the driver lost all of the money he or she had put into owning it. The company would then simply lease the truck to the next driver hired.

In addition to leasing fees, truckers still had to pay for gas and maintenance, among others. After deducting for leasing expenses and other payments, some drivers were barely making a profit at all. One trucker reported his take-home pay at a mere $0.67 per week. If the trucker was fired, the company would continue to charge the driver for payments owed under the contract. Court filings revealed many high-profile corporations were charged with labor violations, including Target, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hasbro, UPS, Goodyear, and Costco.

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A trial date has been set for the driver who fell asleep at the wheel while operating a commercial truck, which killed a 31-year-old man. John Ray Carpenter is facing charges of vehicular homicide, which carries a sentence of anywhere between 3 and 15 years in prison. Carpenter did not deny that he “dozed off” or “blacked out” while driving his multi-ton septic tanker shortly before colliding head-on with Johnson, according to authorities.

The criminal complaint also alleges that the trucker voluntarily admitted to authorities that he is aware that he goes through spells periodically where he believes his eyes are open when they really are not. Further investigation discovered that prior to this wreck, the defendant had a long history of traffic collisions but continued to drive trucks commercially for a living. In fact, he was involved in 13 accidents between the years of 2000 and 2015. Additionally, records show that the driver was involved in a traffic collision just one week prior to the incident at issue in this case, causing thousands of dollars in property damage. The U.S. Department of Transportation declared the driver unfit to operate commercial trucks and has restricted him from doing so.

A civil lawsuit has also been filed against the truck driver in connection with this fatal truck accident. The lawsuit alleges that the driver operated his vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, and that he should not have been allowed to operate a commercial truck due to a serious medical condition, sleep apnea.

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Federal agencies and regulatory groups are always looking at ways to reduce car and truck accidents and prevent people from being hurt in them. Each year, millions get injured in car and truck accidents throughout Tennessee and across the country. Nearly all of these are caused by some form of negligence, whether it is looking down at a phone instead of focusing on the road, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or failing to properly maintain the car.

A common theme in car accident prevention is that many wrecks can be prevented by the drivers themselves. One particular way is by reducing drowsy driving. Drowsy drivers are those who are sleepy, tired, or fatigued, which leads to slower reaction times and lapses in judgment. Each year, drowsy driving contributes to as many as one million car accidents and 8,000 accident-related deaths.

Researchers have been studying drowsy driving for years. One study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found a direct link between lack of sleep and inattentiveness on the road. For example, drivers who had slept less than four hours in the previous 24 hours were 11.5 times more likely to get into an accident than drivers who had slept move than seven hours in the same timeframe. Alarmingly, the study found that sleeping only 4-5 hours can produce the same effects as a blood alcohol content (BAC) level that is equal to or slightly above the legal limit for alcohol. A separate study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that one in three drivers admitted to driving while drowsy.

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In the past, unsafe vehicles have been referred to by some as “metal death traps.” The term has also been attributed to dangerous roads or intersections.  This term can describe the scenario a 22-year-old woman found herself in when a tanker truck flipped and landed on her sedan, pinning and trapping her inside. Emergency rescuers had to work quickly to remove the victim from her crushed vehicle after the crash occurred in Clarksville, Tennessee, in January 2017. The victim was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to be treated for injuries. The tanker truck driver, employed by Clarksville Gas and Water, was also injured and taken to Tennova Healthcare for evaluation.

Truck accidents in the United States have increased steadily over the last few years, and there is no sign of them significantly slowing down anytime soon. Many of these accidents can be attributed to a number of common culprits.

Driver error is one of the most common contributors to truck accidents. In fact, one study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that nearly 87% of truck crashes are attributed to truck driver error. In Tennessee, truckers are required to have a special driver’s license to operate commercial vehicles like tanker trucks. Despite this fact, many truck accidents occur because truck drivers fail to responsibly operate their vehicles, even after possessing the required skill, knowledge, and training needed to operate these large vehicles. Truck rollover accidents, like the Clarksville one mentioned above, are often caused by speeding, sharp turns, improper weight distribution, or any combination of these factors. The risk of truck rollover accidents increases when a driver is fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

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The dangers of drunk driving are well known. But could driving drowsy be just as dangerous, or even more dangerous, than driving drunk?

Lack of sleep is bad for your health, as it is known to raise the risk of many significant chronic health conditions. Among these are heart disease, diabetes, urinary complications, colon cancer, and breast cancer. While these are potentially long-term consequences of not getting enough sleep, there’s also a short-term consequence that should not be forgotten: auto and truck accidents. In fact, it’s estimated that lack of sleep plays a role in 21% of all fatal auto accidents.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults sleep 7 to 9 hours per night and that adults over 65 sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. Even small declines in the time we sleep can have a drastic impact on our driving abilities. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, missing only 1 to 2 hours of sleep can nearly double a person’s risk of being involved in an auto or truck accident. The risk is even greater for those who sleep for only 4 to 5 hours. For these drivers, their risk of being in an auto accident is more than 4 times that of their well-rested counterparts.

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