Many truck drivers in Virginia and around the country are paid based on the number of miles they cover and not the amount of time they spend behind the wheel, which means they have an incentive to travel as far as possible before they are required to take federally mandated rest breaks. This can lead to truck drivers exceeding speed limits, driving at unsafe speeds in hazardous weather conditions or remaining on duty after they become dangerously fatigued.
Hours of service regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service regulations limit long-distance truck driver shifts to 14 hours with no more than 11 of those hours spent behind the wheel, but drivers who have to cope with heavy traffic or poor road surfaces can become too tired to operate their vehicles safely long before the rules require them to rest. This means that truck accidents can be fatigue-related even if the drivers involved are not in violation of the FMCSA rules when they crash.
Factors that can contribute to fatigue
Truck drivers operate vehicles that can weigh up to 40 tons on city streets, rural highways and cross-country interstates, and they are expected to remain alert and vigilant at all times. Staying on the road for hours on end will inevitably lead to fatigue, but truck drivers can become dangerously tired early in their shifts if they take over-the-counter or prescription medications that cause drowsiness, are worried about problems in their lives or suffer from medical conditions that sap their energy.
Reward truck drivers for caution
The federal government has strict rules in place that were drafted to prevent fatigue-related truck accidents, but they only limit the amount of time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel. Illness, medications and stress can all cause fatigue long before the FMCSA rules become a factor, which is why truck drivers should be rewarded rather than punished when they pull over to take rest breaks.