Drowsy driving is dangerous under any circumstances, but it is especially dangerous when New Jersey operators of semi-trucks drive while fatigued. If they fall asleep at the wheel, the sheer size of their vehicle could make any resulting truck accident catastrophic. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has regulations that limit how long a commercial trucker can be behind the wheel before having to take a rest break.
However, the DOT is now proposing changes to these regulations that would relax drive-time rules for truckers. Currently, semi-truck drivers can only drive 11 hours within a 14-hour on-duty period. In addition, semi-truck drivers are required to take 10 hours off in-a-row between shifts. And, semi-truck drivers are required to take one 30-minute rest-period before reaching the end of an eight-hour shift.
It is important to note that currently, these time restrictions are not paused when truckers are loading and unloading cargo. So, the drive-time rules still apply even if the trucker is not technically behind the wheel, but is still working as part of their shift. One proposed change would put a pause on the clock during a trucker's shift when the trucker is loading or unloading cargo, a task that could take as many as four hours to complete.
Nevertheless, fatigue is a major factor in many truck accidents, despite current trucking regulations meant to prevent drowsy driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that 4,657 deadly truck accidents took place in 2017. Of these crashes, 60 of the truckers were determined to be fatigued or asleep at the wheel. But, truck driver fatigue is likely underreported on accident forms.
Drowsy driving breaches a motorist's duty of care to drive reasonably under the circumstances. It is especially important that truckers avoid driving while fatigued. If this duty is breach and causes another party to suffer damages as a result, the injured party or their family in the case of a fatality may want to file a legal claim. Compensation may be sought for medical expenses, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering and more. For some, pursuing a lawsuit is their only means of obtaining the financial resources they need to move on from the crash.