Young & McCarthy LLP

Long commutes prior to work could add to truck driver fatigue

Truck drivers in Ohio often work long hours, and their commutes prior to their work shifts have the potential of increasing their fatigue. The fatal truck accident in June 2014 that killed comedian James McNair and seriously injured actor Tracy Morgan highlighted the role of long commutes in truck driver fatigue. The truck driver who allegedly fell asleep before crashing into the actor's vehicle appeared to have slept only 4 hours during the 33 hours before the accident. He had driven 800 miles to get to work and start his shift as a driver for Walmart's private trucking fleet.

This high-profile accident alerted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to the potential dangers of long commutes. The Walmart driver had been within hours of service limits at the time of the crash but apparently impaired by sleep deprivation. As a result, the agency has proposed a survey of commercial drivers that would investigate commute times. Regulators hope to gather responses from at least 500 truck and bus drivers about their commuting, work schedules, break times, demographics and miles driven every year.

The FMCSA wants to learn what percentage of drivers commute over 2.5 hours before starting their jobs. Launching the survey depends on approval from the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

Truck driver fatigue is a known factor that contributes to a portion of truck accidents. When a crash with a commercial vehicle seriously injures a person, financial hardship could result from high medical bills, time away from work and potential disability. An attorney may assist a person with a personal injury claim to pursue damages. An attorney familiar with trucking regulations and insurance policies may be able to challenge tactics employed by the trucking company to limit a settlement.

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