Thousands of road users in Georgia and around the country are killed or seriously injured every year in accidents caused by drowsy commercial vehicle drivers. Researchers have discovered that operating a motor vehicle while fatigued is as dangerous as getting behind the wheel after taking drugs or drinking, and the National Safety Council says drowsy drivers are three times more likely to crash. Many people associate driver fatigue with falling asleep behind the wheel, but most deadly fatigue-related crashes are caused by drivers who were still awake but had far slower reaction times.
Fatigue in the logistics sector
Drowsiness has long been one of the most serious safety issues in the logistics industry. Truck drivers are under great pressure to complete their journeys on time, which could prompt them to remain on the road even after noticing the first signs of fatigue. Other factors that truck drivers must contend with that make them prone to fatigue include:
• Driving for long periods on roads that offer little in the way of visual interest
• Lodging options that do not allow them to get adequate rest
• Employers that prioritize speed over safety
• Medical conditions like sleep apnea
• Work routines that make regular exercise and healthy eating difficult
Hours of service regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict hours of service regulations that are designed to protect the public from fatigued truck drivers, but they were relaxed in June 2020 in response to the lobbying efforts of the logistics sector. The revised regulations expand the short-haul exemption to 150 miles, which means far more commercial vehicle drivers will be able to work shifts of up to 14 hours. The changes also relax the rules dealing with mandatory 30-minute breaks and sleeper berths and extend the amount of time that truck drivers can operate their vehicles in adverse weather conditions by two hours. Road safety advocates opposed the changes and believe that they will lead to more motor vehicle accident injuries and deaths.
Electronic evidence of fatigue
Proving fatigue can be difficult for accident victims who wish to pursue personal injury lawsuits, but establishing drowsiness may be less difficult when the negligent party was driving a large commercial vehicle. This is because tractor-trailers are equipped with black-box type devices that monitor vehicle performance and electronic logging devices that keep track of driver hours. These devices may also have features that could reveal if data has been tampered with or erased.