Ever get tired or sleepy on the job? Ever “rest your eyes” while leaning back in your desk chair? If you haven’t, then please tell us your secret! Otherwise, you are like almost all workers who get tired on the job.
When someone who works behind a computer closes their eyes or loses focus, the boss man may not be too happy. But, under most circumstances, getting a few seconds of eye-closed time is not dangerous. The exact opposite is true for truck drivers.
Driving a large 18-wheeler or semi-truck is a dangerous job. Large trucks can weight up to 80,000 pounds without any special permits; for comparison, the average consumer car weights approximately 5,000 pounds (https://www.thetruckersreport.com/facts-about-trucks). Because trucks are extremely heavy and are driven at highway speeds, they can cause an incredible amount of damage. So, taking a few seconds or minutes of shut-eye is extremely dangerous.
Just yesterday, a truck driver from Atlanta was arrested a year after he fell asleep and crashed into a bus, killed 13 people. (http://www.ajc.com/news/crime–law/metro-atlanta-truck-driver-fell-asleep-before-bus-crash-that-killed-california/ghQmzZV7eC26jrgHvORSEL/). The crash was in California, but it certainly hits home to us in Atlanta. The driver was from Covington and was charged with a combined 42 criminal charges, including felony reckless driving and felony vehicular manslaughter. One reason why the driver apparently fell asleep was that he was driving too much and not properly tracking his hours.
Stories about drivers falling asleep are not rare. A driver fell asleep and crashed into a mattress store recently. (http://cbs6albany.com/news/offbeat/driver-not-injured-after-crashing-into-mattress-store-in-huntington). Luckily, no one was injured, and the silver lining may have been that the mattresses were there to absorb the impact. In another case, just 2 days ago, a semi-truck driver fell asleep and was hospitalized as a result. (http://whmi.com/news/article/29633).
There are rules in place to keep tired and fatigued drivers off the road, primarily 1) that drivers may only drive a certain number of hours in certain time periods; and 2) drivers must log their hours so that police, safety officials, and truck companies can ensure the rules are being followed. The hours rules are somewhat complicated, but truck drivers and trucking lawyers, like us, know the rules inside and out. For more information about the hours, please look at our page dedicated to truck driver hours and fatigue by clicking here. (https://www.rafilawfirm.com/commercial-vehicle-accidents/truck-driver-fatigue/)
Most drivers still keep hand-written logs. You can see a log by clicking here. (https://www.rafilawfirm.com/commercial-vehicle-accidents/truck-driver-fatigue/). Some places, like South Carolina, are requiring companies to keep electronic logs, so they are more accurate. (http://www.postandcourier.com/business/s-c-trucking-industry-hoping-for-smooth-transition-to-e/article_c77f72ea-af63-11e7-9e9b-fba54449b115.html).
We recently had a case where a truck driver did not keep logs of when he drove and when he did not – this is a very big deal because it is very unsafe.
The federal government has an interesting page dedicated to driver fatigue, and it includes a video which may help you spot the signs of truck driver fatigue. (https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/driver-safety/cmv-driving-tips-driver-fatigue) In the end, though, if you see a truck (or any car for that matter) that is not staying in its lane, is driving at unsafe speeds or failing to maintain a constant speed, does not have lights on, or seems like there is something wrong in any way, assuming traffic allows, please get away from that driver and alert authorities. In Georgia, you can call 911 or 511 (http://www.511ga.org/) on your cell phone.
If you do need legal advice about a truck crash, a crash involving a fatigued and tired driver, or even a driver who fell asleep, we are here to help. You can view our contact information by clicking here (https://www.rafilawfirm.com/contact-mike/).