How Does Driver Fatigue Cause Truck Accidents?

While most drivers know that they shouldn’t drive when they’re tired, truck drivers with demanding schedules and expectations from their bosses often ignore this rule. Driver fatigue is a massive rising problem, particularly in truck accidents, and it can have catastrophic effects. 

If you were involved in a truck accident or had another encounter with a fatigued truck driver, you may wonder why it happened and what you can do next. This article will clear up some of these issues for you.

What Is Truck Driver Fatigue and Why Is It Such a Big Problem?

The term “driver fatigue” refers to anyone who is driving drowsy. When truck drivers suffer from fatigue, it can lead to a lack of concentration and a slowed reaction time while driving, which increases the likelihood of a truck accident. 

Truck driver fatigue is a widespread problem because of the demands placed on them by the company to meet tight deadlines and prioritize productivity over rest. 

A series of studies cite driver drowsiness as a leading cause of large truck accidents. Indeed, drowsy driving increases the likelihood of a motor vehicle accident, and it impacts truckers considerably more than regular motorists. Driving while fatigued often leads to impaired judgment, slowed response times, and lapses in focus and attention. In fact, some drivers even fall asleep at the wheel.

These outcomes mean driver fatigue can have similar effects to driving while intoxicated. Fatigued drivers operating large trucks are more likely to lose control of their vehicles. Their lack of alertness may make it impossible for them to correct their mistake, which could result in a (possibly fatal) crash. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that over 13% of commercial truck drivers were fatigued during accidents. The FMCSA has mandates against fatigued driving, such as a general rule that no trucker can drive for more than 11 consecutive hours, with at least 10 hours of not driving the truck before those 11 straight hours. 

However, these mandates may not be sufficient, as 11 consecutive hours of driving is still long enough for fatigue to set in, especially for truckers driving overnight or with irregular sleep schedules. Another issue is that not all drivers abide by these regulations because of the pressure to meet deadlines and deliver cargo. 

If you were involved in an accident caused by a fatigued truck driver, you might be entitled to compensation from the trucking company, insurance company, or driver. The Personal Injury Center believes you deserve to have this wrong rectified and will help you get there. Visit us today so that our experienced team can help you.

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Factors That Cause and Influence Truck Driver Fatigue

Different elements can increase the chances of truck driver fatigue. Unfortunately, because of the demanding schedules of commercial truck drivers, many of these factors affect them more than they do people operating regular passenger vehicles. 

Here is a list of the most common reasons for fatigue and truck accidents. 

Time of Day 

When working long shifts, truck drivers often drive late into the night. Even if they are well rested, the time of day could make them drowsy because our bodies naturally become tired in the evening. Therefore, the later it is at night, the higher the likelihood that the truck driver will experience fatigue. 

Hours Awake 

The more hours a driver spends awake, the drowsier they become. Sleep deprivation considerably reduces a driver’s reaction time, which makes it much more dangerous for them to be on the road. While the FMCSA’s hours of service regulations prohibit working a shift of over 11 consecutive hours, it doesn’t account for the deadlines a driver faces from their company. 

Due to pressing deadlines and job requirements, truck drivers may drive for a prolonged period, increasing their likelihood of becoming fatigued. 

Sleep Disorders 

Truckers have a much higher likelihood of experiencing sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, resulting from the lifestyle that comes with their job. This includes irregular sleep schedules and sitting sedentary for prolonged periods of time. Moreover, their diet is generally poor, consisting of rest-stop foods and possibly heavy smoking. 

A 2020 study found that 7.2% of their driver study sample were diagnosed with sleep apnea. Their testing methods also found that another 6.4% potentially had the condition but remained undiagnosed.

Having a sleep disorder means that even if someone gets the recommended amount of sleep, the quality of sleep is likely compromised. As a result, that individual is less rested than someone who doesn’t suffer from a sleep disorder and is, therefore, more susceptible to fatigue. Considering that drowsiness is a leading cause of truck accidents, the number of truckers experiencing sleep disorders is a massive problem. 

Rotating Shift Schedules

Truck driving is not a regular nine-to-five job, as the shift patterns are often irregular and on rotating schedules. This variance in their hours can make it harder for a truck driver to establish a quality sleep routine.


The lifestyle of truck drivers increases their risk of developing health problems, and it also doesn’t allow them sufficient time to recover from common illnesses. Similar to others, a truck driver needs rest after falling ill. However, their long hours of work prevent them from getting the rest they require. In fact, a common cold could affect a truck driver’s focus on the road, as they may be feeling fatigued and craving sleep.

Medication Use

Along with illnesses that could possibly cause drowsiness, a trucker may also take some medication in an effort to recover faster. Unfortunately, these pills could have the side effect of further causing drowsiness, which puts truckers at a greater risk of falling asleep at the wheel.


Drunkenness or intoxication from alcohol or drug use drastically increases unsafe driving when operating any motor vehicle. In 2020, the FMCSA reported a 40% increase in drug and alcohol violations by truck drivers in the United States.

When truck drivers worldwide were tested, the US had the most drivers with high blood alcohol content. Some drivers also take drugs to keep themselves awake. Not only does inebriation come with its own dangers, but it also increases the likelihood of drowsy driving.  

Consequences of Truck Driver Fatigue

When a driver experiences fatigue, it can severely inhibit their ability to operate a vehicle. This can be especially detrimental when driving a large commercial truck. Additionally, due to these vehicles’ sheer size and weight, their operation often requires extra skill. 

Truck driver fatigue often leads to accidents that are sometimes fatal. Some indications of driver fatigue include the following:

Swaying Between Lanes

A lack of focus due to fatigue can reduce a driver’s ability to stay in his lane. This can lead to the truck veering between lanes, which significantly increases the risk of colliding with roadside objects and other vehicles.

Drifting off the Road

For the same reasons they sway between lanes, a fatigued truck driver may drift off the road and potentially crash into fences or power poles. Moreover, they may also jolt back to consciousness and overcorrect when trying to regain control, which may cause them to collide with other vehicles. 

Accelerating Due to Unconscious Pressure on the Gas Pedal

Concentration is very important for commercial truck drivers. If the driver loses focus, they may unconsciously increase pressure on the gas pedal, which can result in speeding, a loss of control, and potentially more damage if a crash occurs. 

Crash and Collision 

Drowsy drivers lead to a higher risk of car accidents or collisions. Unfortunately, innocent drivers are most often injured when a drowsy truck driver causes a collision. Common types of crashes are rear-ending, sideswiping, or drifting into the wrong lane and causing a head-on collision.

Pro Tip

When you suffer severe injuries from a truck accident, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced truck accident lawyer understands your difficulties after the incident and can get you the compensation you deserve.

Truck Driver Fatigue: Liability for Accidents It Causes

If your truck accident involved a fatigued driver, the driver, and potentially the trucking company, might be liable. The trucking company might be responsible if they encouraged the trucker to drive more than the legal limit of 11 consecutive hours. The same is true if they ignore warning signs of driver fatigue or falsified driver log books. 

If, however, only the truck driver is at fault, then you might still get compensation from the trucking or insurance company under indirect liability. This can happen by demonstrating that the trucker was employed by and working for the company when their drowsy driving resulted in a motor vehicle accident.

Personal injury cases usually require proving that a defendant was negligent and that they didn’t use reasonable care under the circumstances. When a commercial vehicle driver, or a company in the trucking industry, fails to follow regulations to curb fatigued driving, a victim may claim negligence per se in some states. This is a possible shortcut to proving negligence. Rather than showing that the defendant didn’t act reasonably, the victim can simply demonstrate the following:

  • The truck driver, or his company, violated a law or regulation designed to protect people, such as the victim
  • The victim suffered the type of harm that the law or regulation was meant to prevent

Truck and semi-truck accidents caused by fatigued driving often happen because of the time of day, lack of sleep, and sleep disorders. Unfortunately, these types of accidents can lead to severe injuries. 

If you want to determine liability in your truck accident case or want compensation from the responsible parties, a truck accident lawyer can help you navigate the process and get the compensation you deserve. Visit The Personal Injury Center today to get referred to an experienced truck accident attorney. 

Get the Compensation You Deserve

Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents. You and your loved ones shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s negligence. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has regulations that can hold truck drivers and companies accountable for the pain they’ve caused you. 

Many truck accident attorneys can help you receive compensation. They may offer free consultations and provide a case review to determine what you may be entitled to after your injury. Personal injury lawyers can help you in many ways. If you need a good truck accident lawyer, look no further. Visit The Personal Injury Center today for all the help you may need to get the compensation you deserve. 

You have legal options if you or a loved one suffered harm from a collision with a fatigued trucker. We at The Personal Injury Center can partner you with lawyers who can work your case and get you the compensation you deserve.

FAQs on How Does Driver Fatigue Cause Truck Accidents?

You first need to check whether everyone is okay. Then, call 911 if you need emergency services and get everyone to safety.

Exchange information with the driver and document the scene. Note the driver's name, license plate number, employer, insurance company, policy number, etc. If possible, take pictures of the scene.

After the accident, contact a personal injury lawyer or firm. They can help you build a case and receive compensation.

Driver fatigue is a severe impairment while driving and is a leading cause of truck accidents.

You can manage driver fatigue by complying with FMCSA regulations, taking regular breaks to rest, and ensuring you never drive drowsy or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.