Missouri Fatigued Truck-Driving Crash Attorneys

Interstate 70 is one of the busiest highways in the country, and in Missouri, more than 8,500 large commercial trucks travel I-70 every day. Most of those trucks pass through without incident. But occasionally, they’re involved in serious and deadly crashes, and driver fatigue is often a contributing factor.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, about 4,000 people die in crashes each year involving large commercial trucks in which fatigue is a leading cause. Fatigue isn’t as easy to detect as other dangerous driving behaviors, such as speeding or intoxication, so it may be underreported as a crash factor.

Despite federal laws that mandate rest breaks for truck drivers and limit driving time, many drivers are still driving while drowsy – and they may not even know it.

If you’ve suffered an injury in a crash with a commercial truck, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages, medical expenses, pain, and suffering. Call Missouri truck accident attorneys Bley & Evans today to request your free consultation: 844-443-8385.

The Effects of Poor Sleep Patterns

Long-haul truckers don’t have a “normal” schedule that allows for a consistent bedtime, or eight hours of deep sleep every night. Cargo carriers, for example, can drive up to 14 hours after 10 hours off-duty. That doesn’t mean drivers are necessarily sleeping eight hours during that 10-hour break, though.

Some drivers alternate working overnight and daytime shifts, which can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms – the natural patterns of sleep, brain activity, cell regeneration, and wakefulness. People with irregular work schedules may develop shift work disorder, the symptoms of which include:

  • Excessive sleepiness when awake
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up before completing a sleep cycle.

When shift work disorder is ongoing, symptoms may become more pronounced. Sleep deprivation can actually cause hallucinations in a person who routinely gets inadequate sleep.

Sleep Inertia

If you feel that you’re somewhat clumsy when you first wake up, you may be suffering from sleep inertia, which is an impairment of reaction time, cognitive functioning, short-term memory, vigilance, and other tasks. Truck drivers who have a cab with a sleeper berth may begin driving almost immediately after waking, which could increase their crash risk.

One study tested the effects of sleep inertia, using nine paid volunteers who, in the three weeks before the study, abstained from the use of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, medications, and street drugs.

The volunteers then reported to the lab, where they slept about eight hours per night for six nights, and on the morning of the seventh day, researchers woke them and administered cognitive performance tests, asking them to add two randomly generated two-digit numbers. Upon waking, the volunteers got only 17 correct answers on the 28-question test. Four hours later, they got 25 questions correct.

The results of that test seem to indicate that truck drivers who drive immediately upon waking may lack the alertness and cognitive functioning to drive safely – especially considering that the study volunteers had regular, healthy sleep patterns and still performed poorly on the tests.

Unscrupulous Employers

Trucking company owners are required to keep tabs on their drivers and check their logs, to ensure they’re in compliance with federal hours-of-service rules. But some owners force their drivers to work excessive hours and attempt to hide evidence of their illegal activity.

In 2004, the owner of a petroleum carrier in Cuba, Mo., was sentenced to two months in prison and four months in home confinement for several illegal activities, including one felony count of conspiracy to make false statements to a governmental agency. The owner and one of his employees deliberately hid from regulators evidence of excessive driving hours and illegal trips.

In 2015, during an unannounced roadside safety inspection of a Garfield Trucking vehicle, Missouri inspectors found 43 safety violations, including falsified driving hours logbooks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered the Ohio-based company to cease all operations immediately, because of the most recent safety violations and because of its failure to remedy two violations found the year before.

Fleet owners who force long-haul drivers to exceed driving hours put their employees and other drivers at risk of injury and death.

Pursuing Accountability

When two cars collide, damages may be as minor as a dented bumper, but a large commercial truck can demolish a passenger vehicle in a crash, causing serious, costly, and perhaps fatal injuries.

If you’ve been injured in a crash with a large truck, and you think the driver dozed off while driving, you may be able to pursue the driver and their employer for damages. Get your free, no-obligation consultation, by calling us at 844-443-8385, or by filling out our online form.