Fatigued Truck Driver Accidents: How to be Mindful on the Road

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Driver fatigue is a recognized hazard in the trucking industry and contributes significantly to road accidents not just in Texas, but nationwide as well. Fatigue can impair a driver’s response time, decision-making ability, and attention. Tire defects and driver fatigue are the two primary culprits of truck accidents. If you have been injured in an accident involving a fatigued truck driver, Ceja Law Firm, PLLC can help you navigate your case and seek the justice you deserve.

Several factors can increase the risk of truck accidents due to driver fatigue:

  • Long Working Hours: The U.S. trucking industry is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA has hours-of-service (HOS) regulations designed to reduce driver fatigue by limiting the number of hours a driver can operate a commercial motor vehicle and requiring rest breaks. However, there have been instances where drivers or their employers have not followed these regulations, leading to fatigue. There are more detailed requirements contained in the Federal HOS regulations, as well as other laws that govern truck driver fatigue. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) require carriers to establish and enforce fatigue management programs, and to provide drivers with adequate rest breaks and time off duty. Non-compliance with these regulations and laws can result in penalties, fines, and even the revocation of the driver’s operating authority. Drivers and carriers must understand and comply with HOS regulations and laws to promote safety on the road and to avoid legal and financial consequences.

The FMCSA website provides detailed information about Hours of Service regulations, Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), and other rules related to truck driver fatigue. Note that if you were injured in a trucking accident, the ELD can be a crucial piece of evidence to establish driver fatigue as the cause of the accident.

  • Inadequate Rest: Even within legal working limits, not all rest is the same. Sleeping in a moving truck or at noisy truck stops might not provide the same restorative benefits as sleeping in a quiet, stationary bed. Furthermore, truckers might experience sleep disturbances like sleep apnea, which can lead to increased fatigue.
  • Night Driving: The body’s natural circadian rhythms can make night driving especially tiring, as the body is naturally programmed to sleep during those hours.
  • Pressure to Meet Deadlines: Some truck drivers may feel the need to push beyond their physical limits to meet tight delivery schedules, which can lead to skipping their breaks or taking stimulants to stay awake.

Potential Legal Causes of Action When You Are Involved In A Truck Accident Due To Driver Fatigue

In the state of Texas (as well as other states), truck driver fatigue can be a significant factor leading to accidents and potential liability. Here are some potential legal causes of action that could be considered if a truck accident in Texas was caused by truck driver fatigue:

  • Negligence: This is a common cause of action in personal injury cases. To prove negligence, a plaintiff typically needs to show:
    • Duty: The truck driver owed a duty to the plaintiff (or the general public) to drive safely.
    • Breach: The truck driver breached that duty by driving while fatigued.
    • Causation: The fatigue was a proximate cause of the accident.
    • Damages: The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the accident.
  • Negligence Per Se: In Texas, as in many states, if a truck driver violates a statute or regulation designed to protect the public, and that violation causes injury, the violation can be considered “negligence per se.” For example, if the truck driver was in violation of federal Hours Of Service regulations or other laws specifically aimed at preventing driver fatigue, then the driver may be found automatically negligent.
  • Wrongful Death: If someone dies as a result of the truck accident, their family may bring a wrongful death claim against the truck driver and possibly the trucking company. This would be premised on the theory that the driver’s (and potentially the company’s) negligence led to the fatality.
  • Vicarious Liability (Respondent Superior): Trucking companies can be held liable for the actions of their drivers if the driver was acting within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred. This is based on the principle of respondeat superior, which means “let the master answer.”
  • Negligent Hiring, Training, and Supervision: If the trucking company knew or should have known that a driver had a history of driving while fatigued or had other issues that made them an unsafe driver, and the company did not adequately train or supervise them, the company could be held liable.
  • Breach of Warranty: If a commercial truck was being used to transport goods and the goods were damaged due to the accident, there could be a breach of warranty claim depending on the terms of the capacity agreement.
  • Product Liability: If a part of the truck malfunctioned (for instance, if the alert system designed to wake up drowsy drivers failed), there might be a product liability claim against the manufacturer of that part or system.
  • Punitive Damages: In some cases, if the driver’s or trucking company’s behavior was particularly reckless, plaintiffs might seek punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.

The Attorneys at Ceja Law Firm Help Those Who Have Been Involved in an Accident Due to a Fatigued Truck Driver

If you or a  loved one has been injured due to a truck driver’s fatigue while behind the wheel, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. Our legal team has the resources to thoroughly investigate your claim and develop an effective strategy on your behalf, all while protecting your rights. Contact Ceja Law Firm, PLLC as soon as possible to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your case.

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.