Skip to Content
No Fees Unless We Win 855-948-5098
Truck Driver Fatigue Client Focused. Trial Ready. Billions Won.

Why Truck Driver Fatigue is a Serious Problem

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) cites truck driver fatigue as one of the leading factors contributing to commercial trucking crashes. While tired driving does not always cause a crash, it can dramatically increase the likelihood that one will occur.

Despite the FMCSA’s best efforts to implement rules and regulations to curb fatigue-related truck crashes, truck drivers are often forced to meet unrealistic scheduling expectations imposed by their employers. These tight deadlines can result not only in fatigued driving, but also speeding – a potentially deadly combination.

The experienced truck accident attorneys at Wisner Baum represent clients in Los Angeles and across the nation where truck driver fatigue was the cause of catastrophic collisions. Call (855) 948-5098 if you or a loved one were harmed in a trucking accident.

What is Driver Fatigue?

Driver fatigue is the combination of sleepiness and driving. The risks associated with drowsy driving are alarming—thousands of crashes and hundreds of deaths occur each year in fatigue-related traffic accidents.

According to federal statistics, driver fatigue is a factor in roughly 13 percent of large truck accidents in the U.S. each year. Truck drivers are also more likely than the general population to drive fatigued, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), making the issue a common topic of discussion among trucking safety advocates.

Truck Driver Sleep Requirements and Truck Driver Hours of Service Regulations

Commercial truck drivers are required to follow hours of service (HOS) regulations set by the FMCSA. HOS rules are essentially truck driver fatigue laws designed to keep tired truckers off of public roads and to reduce fatigue while driving.

The truck driver HOS requirements place limitations on when and how long truckers are allowed to drive and work. Truckers are supposed to follow these duty limits at all times (unless exempted, see the FMCSA HOS Guidelines for more details):

14-Hour Driving Window: This is typically thought of as a trucker’s “daily” limit even though it is not based on a 24-hour period. A truck driver is permitted a period of 14 consecutive hours in which they may drive up to 11 hours after being off-duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. The 14-hour driving window begins the moment a driver starts any kind of work, not just driving. Off-duty time, including naps or lunch breaks, do not stop the clock on the 14-hour driving window. Once a driver has reached the end of the 14-hour driving window, they are not permitted to drive again until they have been off duty for another 10 consecutive hours, or the equivalent of at least 10 consecutive hours off duty.

  • Real World Example: Joe Trucker starts work at 6:00 a.m. after being off-duty for 10 consecutive hours. Joe Trucker may not drive after 8:00 p.m. that evening (once he reaches14 hours on duty). He may still work after 8:00 p.m., but he cannot drive his truck again until he has been off-duty for 10 consecutive hours.

11-Hour Driving Limit: As described above, a truck driver may only drive for 11 hours within the 14-hour driving window. However, no further driving is permitted, if more than 8 hours have passed since the driver’s last off-duty or sleep period of at least 30 minutes.

  • Real World Example: Jane Trucker comes to work at 6:00 a.m. after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. She drives from 7:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., then takes a required 30-minute rest break (more on the 30-minute rest break below). Jane then drives another four hours until 6:30 p.m., at which time she is required to stop driving until she 10 consecutive hours off-duty have passed. She may continue to work so long as she is not driving commercially.

30-Minute Rest Break: A truck driver must take a 30-minute rest break if more than eight consecutive hours have passed since their last off-duty (or sleeper-berth) period of at least half an hour. Meal breaks or any other off-duty time of at least 30 minutes qualifies as a break. This time does count against the 14-hour driving window, as allowing off-duty time to extend the workday could allow drivers to continue to drive long past the time when fatigue becomes extreme.

  • Real World Example: John Trucker started driving immediately after coming on duty. He can drive for eight consecutive hours, take a half-hour break, and then continue to drive another three hours for a total of 11 hours behind the wheel.

60/70-Hour Duty Limit: The 60/70-hour duty limit is often referred to as the “weekly” limit. The 60/70 limit is not based on a “set” week (Sunday through Saturday, for example), rather, the limit is based on a “rolling” or “floating” seven or eight-day period. The oldest day’s hours drop off at the end of each day in calculating the total time on-duty for the past seven or eight days. So if a trucker works a 70 hour/eight-day schedule, the current day would be the newest day of an eight-day period and the hours worked nine days ago would drop out of the calculation. A driver would not be allowed to operate a commercial vehicle until his or her hours complied with their seven or eight-day work period.

  • Real World Example: Joanna Driver has accumulated 67 hours of driving time during an eight-day period.

Since Joanna is operating on the 70-hour/eight-day rule, she is in compliance. Once Joanna reaches the 70-hour limit, she must stop driving until she has taken enough off-duty hours to operate a commercial vehicle again.

34-Hour Restart: Commercial truckers may “restart” their 60 or 70-hour clock calculations after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off-duty (or in a sleeper berth) or a combination of both.

  • Real World Example: Justin Driver follows a 70-hour/8-day limit and works 14 hours per day for 5 days in a row. He has been on-duty for 70 hours. Justin is not permitted to drive again until he drops below 70 hours worked in an eight-day period. However, if Justin’s company allows him to use his 34-hour restart provision, he would have driving time available immediately after 34 consecutive hours off duty and start a new 70-hour/eight-day period.

Contact us online or by calling (855) 948-5098 to schedule a free consultation.

How Does Fatigue Affect Driving?

According to the CDC, drowsy driving is most common among those who have not had enough restful sleep, though it can also occur among those who work night shifts, use drugs and/or alcohol, or have undiagnosed sleeping disorders like sleep apnea.

It goes without saying that falling asleep behind the wheel is extremely dangerous. But fatigued driving can still profoundly affect one’s ability to safely drive a passenger vehicle or commercial truck.

Drowsiness behind the wheel can:

  • Affect a driver’s ability to concentrate on the road and other vehicles.
  • Slow reaction times in the event that a driver has to brake or maneuver suddenly.
  • Impact a driver’s ability to make sound decisions regarding when, how, and if to operate.

Truck Driver Fatigue Statistics

The following driver fatigue statistics for trucks come from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Large Truck Crash Causation Study.

FactorsNumber of TrucksPercent of TotalRelative Risk
Vehicle: Problems with Brakes41,00029%2.7
Driver: Driving Too Fast for Conditions32,00023%7.7
Driver: Unfamiliarity with Roadway31,00022%2.0
Environment: Problems with Roadway29,00020%1.5
Driver: Over-the-Counter Drug Use25,00017%1.3
Driver: Inadequate Surveillance20,00014%9.3
Driver: Fatigue18,00013%8.0
Driver: Felt Under Work Pressure16,00010%4.7
Driver: Illegal Maneuver13,0009%26.4
Driver: Inattention12,0009%17.1
Driver: External Distraction11,0008%5.1
Vehicle: Problems with Tire8,0006%2.5
Driver: Following Too Close7,0005%22.6
Driver: Jackknife7,0005%4.7
Vehicle: Cargo shift6,0004%56.3
Driver: Illness4,0003%34.0
Driver: Internal Distraction3,0002%5.8
Driver: Illegal Drugs3,0002%1.8
Driver: Alcohol1,0001%5.3

Of the 19 truck accident factors listed above, 15 are driver-related accident factors. While driver fatigue is a factor unto itself, driving tired can also lead to or exacerbate some of the other factors listed.

For example, driving fatigued can lead to inattention. If a driver is stressed to make a deadline, he or she may be more willing to try and combat their fatigue through the use of illegal drugs.

Driving Tired Affects Everyone, Not Just Truckers

Driver fatigue is not just a trucker issue; drivers of passenger vehicles are also at risk for drowsy driving, especially if they use medication that makes them sleepy, have sleep disorders or are shift workers.

  • According to multiple surveys conducted by the CDC, one out of every 25 adults over the age of 18 reported that they had fallen asleep behind the wheel in the last 30 days.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that driver fatigue is responsible for more than 800 deaths per year.*
  • Other studies have indicated that driver fatigue-related crashes may cause thousands of deaths every year.**

Call (855) 948-5098 or contact us online for more information.

* Based on average of two years of NHTSA drowsy driving data

** See: Masten SV, Stutts JC, Martell CA. Predicting daytime and nighttime drowsy driving crashes based on crash characteristic models. 50th Annual Proceedings, Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine; October 2006; Chicago, IL.

Klauer SG, Dingus TA, Neale VL, Sudweeks JD, Ramsey DJ. The Impact of Driver Inattention on Near-Crash/Crash Risk: An Analysis Using the 100-Car Naturalistic Study Data, 2006; Springfield, VA: DOT; year. DOT HS 810 594.

Our Case Results

  • $10 Million Settlement A Major Foreign Plane Crash

    Wisner Baum obtained a $10 million settlement for the death of a passenger in a major foreign plane crash.

  • $14 Million Settlement A Major US Plane Crash

    Wisner Baum obtained a $14 million settlement for the death of a passenger in a major US plane crash.

  • $17.5 Million Settlement A Major US Plane Crash

    Wisner Baum obtained a $17.5 million settlement on behalf of a client who was killed in a major U.S. plane crash.

  • $10 Million Settlement Celexa-Lexapro Pediatric Class Action

    $10 million pediatric class action re false promotion of Celexa and Lexapro. Babies born to women who have used Lexapro and other similar medications such as Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, and Symbyax are at an increased risk for birth defects.

  • $8.5 Million Verdict Commercial Truck Accident

    Wisner Baum secured a $8.5 million wrongful death verdict against the food industry company, Tyson Foods, for the wrongful death of a young man.

  • $28 Million Settlement Defective Drug Class Action

    $28 million Paxil defective drug class action. A class action has been brought in the US territory of Puerto Rico against UK-based drug major GlaxoSmithKline.

Client-Focused Representation


We believe our track record speaks for itself. But you don’t have to take our word for it. See what our clients have to say about working with us.

    "I Can’t Imagine a Better Law Firm"

    Multiple lawyers recommended Wisner Baum to me and I have been consistently impressed with the quality of their work.

    - Best Law Firms Survey
    "They Are About Changing the Systems..."

    Wisner Baum are not only amazing attorneys but more importantly, they are activists. They are about changing the systems which got us into trouble in the first place. They understand their role in the process of making change.

    - Kim Witczak
    "Top Legal Minds in the Country"

    The Wisner Baum firm has some of the top legal minds in the country; they are driven, determined, trustworthy, ethical and passionate.

    - From Best Lawyers® Best Law Firms
Nationwide Legal Advocacy Call (855) 948-5098 to Learn About Your Legal Options Free & Confidential Consultation