Accidents involving buses or semi-tractor trailers kill or injure many Oklahoma road users every year, and many of these crashes are caused by fatigued truck drivers pushed by unforgiving schedules to the point of exhaustion. To reduce this type of accident, the federal government introduced strict regulations that set limits on how long commercial vehicle drivers can spend behind the wheel before resting, but these rules do little to tackle other causes of fatigue. A fatigued driver checklist was created by the Minnesota State Police to help their officers determine if truck and bus drivers were too tired to operate their vehicles correctly, but the list was subsequently ruled unconstitutional.
Falling asleep while behind the wheel is a nightmare scenario for truck drivers as well as other road users, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sought clarification from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association regarding the rules on driver fatigue in 2014. Regulations can only be expected to be effective when they are based on solid research and accurate data, but a report released in March 2016 by the National Academy of Sciences indicates that there is still much to learn about the topic.
The report which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that the research into driver fatigue is far from complete. The authors of the report were also critical of the scant data that is available. They point out that nearly all of the information available has been provided by the nation’s largest trucking companies and does little to provide insight into the work habits of independent owner-operators or drivers who work for smaller firms.
When those injured in a truck accident caused by a fatigued driver seek civil remedies, personal injury attorneys may file lawsuits on their behalf against the driver concerned or the company that owns the truck. Trucking companies may face litigation when they fail to adequately enforce federal regulations or place such pressure on their drivers to meet deadlines that violations become inevitable.