Drowsy truck drivers claim the lives of Tennessee motorists

Large truck accidents kill many Tennessee residents and Americans each year. Federal and state policies have been enacted to decrease fatalities.

It is not uncommon to see commercial tractor trailers driving along Tennessee roadways amongst other passenger vehicles. Tennessee residents rely on these massive vehicles to transport and distribute goods across the state and to other parts of the country. According to Edmunds.com, commercial trucks carry an estimated 30 percent of American cargo, making them an essential part of the economy.

Despite their vital importance, however, large commercial trucks can be exceptionally deadly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,802 people were killed in large truck accidents nationwide in 2012. Tennessee has shown a steady increase in the rate of truck accident fatalities over the past four years. Drowsy and distracted truck drivers may be responsible for this increase in accidents across the country.

Just last month, a tractor trailer accident in New Jersey critically injured a famous comedian and fatally injured another passenger in the vehicle, as reported by NJ.com. The driver of the big rig has since been charged with four counts of assault by auto and vehicular homicide. It was said that the truck driver had not slept in 24 hours, which is in direct violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service regulations.

Hours of service regulations

The American Trucking Association explains that one reason why the U.S. has seen an increase in truck accidents is simply that large truck operators are driving more due to increased economic demands. In addition to a larger workload, drivers are motivated to remain behind the wheel, even when they are tired in order to increase their paycheck.

In an attempt to combat the issue of drowsy truck drivers, the FMCSA enacted hours of service regulations in July of 2013. The maximum number of hours a truck operator can drive each week was recently changed from 82 hours to 70 hours. If a driver completes a 70-hour work week, they are required to rest for 34 consecutive hours. They are also limited to a 14-hour work day and must take a 30 minute break within the first eight hours of work.

Other driving hazards

Truck drivers face a number of other hazards while navigating along Tennessee roadways. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the following increase the risk of a large truck accident:

  • Inclement weather conditions, including wind, rain, ice and fog, can cause a truck to jackknife, slide or tip over.
  • Distracted driving. Federal law prohibits truck drivers from using their cellphones while driving.
  • Speeding. Trucks take longer to stop than passenger vehicles, especially when they are speeding.
  • Equipment failure, including faulty under-ride guards, lights, brakes and tires, can cause a catastrophic collision.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division has placed five commercial vehicle inspection sites around the state. Law enforcement continually inspects drivers’ hour logs, equipment function and driver capability in an effort to reduce the risk of truck accidents.

When to seek legal assistance

Tennessee residents who have been involved in a devastating truck accident may seek legal counsel from an established attorney. Whether you suffer from extreme property damage, severe physical injuries or both, an attorney can carefully evaluate your case.