Getting behind the wheel when you feel tired is usually a big mistake. Exhaustion can impact your reaction time, as well as your ability to focus on the task at hand. When you are tired, your risk for a crash increases. That fact makes it particularly concerning that so many truck drivers choose to drive longer than they should. Even with the migration to electronic logging devices to track trucker activity, many commercial drivers and trucking companies are still trying to manipulate and game the system.
Exhausted truck drivers are a common risk factor, and they put everyone at risk. Large commercial trucks can cause catastrophic damages to property and life-altering or life-ending injuries to occupants in vehicles. They are so much bigger and heavier than passenger vehicles that people in the smaller vehicle almost always end up suffering injuries, while the commercial driver stays safe. Preventing these collisions is critical to the safety of everyone on the road.
Commercial truck crashes are common in Texas
Texas roads are some of the most-traveled by commercial trucks. Vehicles bring supplies and products from Mexico and Central America, as well as sending merchandise down into other countries. It is also a hub for drivers traveling from the Southwest toward the east. All of that traffic increases risk. In Bexar county in 2016, the most recent year with data from the Texas Department of Transportation, there were 26 fatalities resulting from commercial vehicle crashes. Another 49 people suffered incapacitating injuries.
It is hard to know exactly how many of these crashes relate to exhausted driving. However, it is likely that at least some of them involve driver fatigue. Many times, law enforcement must rely on driver self-reporting to determine exhaustion. It is easy to see how that is not the best system for tracking tired drivers.
There are restrictions on how long truck drivers can drive
In order to reduce the risk of exhausted truck drivers causing fatal crashes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has created Hours of Service rules. These rules limit how long a driver can operate a vehicle and how long a company can require a driver to operate a vehicle. The rules are in place to prevent systemic abuses, like forcing drivers to stay behind the wheel for dangerously long periods of time.
The Hours of Service rules limit truck drivers to no more than 14 hours of work after they first start a shift. After those 14 hours, the driver must have at least eight hours off before resuming work. There is also a limit to how how many hours in a week a commercial driver can work. A trucker can drive no more than 60 hours in a seven-day period or 70 hours in an eight-day period.