A port truck driver had put in 45 hours on the clock over just three days when he ran over a woman crossing the street. Another port driver who admitted often breaking fatigue laws ran into stopped traffic at 55 miles per hour with devastating results, injuring seven and killing a teenager. Still another port truck crashed in Long Beach, injuring four people after the driver had spent 15 hours moving containers.
AAA released a report that found drivers who sleep just five or six hours in a 24-hour period are twice as likely to crash as a driver who gets seven hours or more of sleep. Depriving a driver of sleep leads to decreased accuracy of responses, slower reaction time and long lapses in attention.
Same crash rate as drunken drivers
Drivers who get only four or five hours of sleep have four times the crash rate—similar to an alcohol-impaired driver. Symptoms of drowsy driving include:
- Driver has trouble keeping their eyes open
- Driver drifting across lanes of traffic
- Driver forgetting recent miles driven
USA Today exposé
A recent story from the USA Today Network analyzed more than 30 million electronic time stamps at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles from 2013 to 2016. The time stamps were generated each time a driver passed through one of the port gates. What they found was a rampant disregard for federal rules regarding fatigue.
There are some exceptions, but by law, commercial truckers are required to take a 10-hour break after 11 hours of driving. The investigation discovered that trucks serving these two ports, on average, operated without this break 470 times a day. Those trucks were involved in at least 189 crashes within 24 hours of the law-breaking overtime driving.
Drivers cite company pressure
California port truckers are often forced to drive long days against their will, the USA Today network reported in 2017. Many companies have pushed drivers into debt by requiring them to buy trucks through company-sponsored lease-to-own programs over the past decade. Drivers have found themselves trapped in jobs often paying them pennies per hour after expenses. When they complained or tried to refuse working past the legal limit, they could be fired and lose their new truck along with thousands of dollars they had paid toward the vehicle’s purchase.
Changes coming to the industry
A new federal rule to require truck operators to use electronic logging devices instead of maintaining paper logs went into effect in December of 2017. There is a two-year window for drivers to comply, however, the mandate will not apply to drivers of vehicles built before 2000. It is expected that the new electronic logs will help with more accurate recordkeeping.
When you or a loved one is involved in a truck accident, the results can be devastating. An experienced personal injury attorney can examine your unique circumstances and help determine if negligence could be a contributing factor. Your attorney can help obtain financial compensation for lost income, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses and damages.