Drowsy truck drivers are a danger to themselves, to other motorists, and to individuals working in warehouses and facilities servicing large trucks. Drowsy drivers have slower reaction times and diminished mental faculties which can facilitate a serious, potentially fatal accident. Fatigue is responsible for a significant number of large truck accidents each year and drivers who choose to operate their large trucks while drowsy negligently put others at risk.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Relaxes Hours of Service Regulations
As COVID-19 spread across the country, the FMCSA relaxed hours of service regulations for drivers delivering critical goods. While the FMCSA’s decision to relax hours of service regulations has kept supplies moving to store shelves and medical facilities, it has created a potentially hazardous situation for drivers, other motorists, and the general public. By relaxing the restrictions, it means that many drivers are driving while drowsy in order to meet tight shipping deadlines.
However, it remains to be seen how many accidents this relaxation of the rules has caused. Indeed, the number of accidents may be lower than expected, but only because there is less vehicular traffic on the roads. It will be some time before regulators compile and examine accident data. What is known is that in normal times, studies from 2013 showed that approximately 20% of large truck accidents involved a drowsy driver. These include workers who are injured in loading dock and parking lot accidents while loading/unloading large trucks or performing service on these vehicles.
Driver Inexperience is the Wild Card
Many companies have hired large numbers of new drivers in order to meet delivery demands. Companies such as Amazon have hired thousands to fulfill these duties. Many of these drivers are young and inexperienced. They are being rushed through company training programs to fill an immediate need with little regard to the long-term consequences. These drivers have basic familiarity with their vehicles and loading/unloading procedure, but little more. This means they are prone to making routine mistakes behind the wheel, on the loading dock, and within parking areas that can injure other workers. When these drivers are also fatigued, the risk of a serious accident rises considerably.
While drivers bear responsibility for their actions, their employers are not blameless. Indeed, when these drowsy and inexperienced drivers cause accidents that result in personal injuries or wrongful deaths, employers can be held liable for negligent hiring, negligent training, and negligent supervision of their workforce.