Too many hours behind the wheel can lead to dangerous fatigue in truck drivers and put motorists at serious risk of harm. Many factors influence truck driver fatigue, including difficult schedules; more hours of work; time of day; driving experience; cumulative sleep debt; and the presence of a sleep disorder. The tips below can help to identify evidence of driver fatigue.
- Compare the accident report to what is known about circadian rhythm. The circadian clock is programmed for its
lowest point around 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., with performance reductions from about 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. During these low points, a person will experience decreased performance, alertness and mood. Most fatigue-related accidents are more likely to occur between 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
- Consider the actions of the truck driver and whether they may be consistent with an individual experiencing microsleep or an impaired reaction not otherwise explained.
- Review the driver’s record of duty status. Drivers that exceed the hours of allowable driving or on-duty time will be issued a citation that you can use as evidence of negligence. When drivers change their duty status, they are required to identify their location at that time, and if not in a municipality, identify the highway and nearest mile marker, service post or intersecting street.
- Use multiple documents to evaluate the veracity of a drivers’ logs,including the bill of lading; gas, meal and toll receipts; and information obtained through GPS systems or other electronic communication systems.
- Fully evaluate a driver’s medical health:
- Review the driver’s long-form DOT Medical Examination Report.
- Obtain all of the driver’s medical records, including those following the accident.
- Use the truck driver’s deposition to inquire about his or her medical background and compare it to the long form to find areas ripe for impeachment.
- Compare the driver’s testimony of activity/rest to what is established by the truck company’s documents. Place the testimony in the form of a demonstrative exhibit, allowing a jury to establish a pattern naturally expected to result in driver fatigue.
Langdon & Emison has built a nationwide trucking accident litigation practice. To work with us, contact our firm at 800-397-4910.