How serious is fatigue among truckers?

Trucker fatigue has long been identified as a serious problem, posing great risk to motorists in North Carolina. The federal government has two rules in place designed to prevent fatigued operation of a semi-truck.

Residents in North Carolina may routinely see large tractor-trailers or other commercial vehicles on area roads, highways and freeways. These big rigs haul everything from food to dry goods and more, providing useful services. Unfortunately, drivers who operate these vehicles frequently spend many long and lonely hours behind the wheel. Truckers understandably may develop fatigue due to these circumstances.

When operating a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, drivers should avoid doing so when tired so as to prevent unnecessary accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees commercial transportation and has developed rules designed to prevent fatigued trucking with the goal of improving public safety.

North Carolina's truck accident fatalities

Records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expose a tragic trend in North Carolina as fatalities from large truck accidents increased notably in the five years spanning 2014 through 2018. In 2014, the state recorded 121 truck accident deaths. These deaths represented 9.4% of the state's total vehicular fatalities that year. In 2018, truck crash fatalities accounted for 12.3% of all motor vehicle deaths in North Carolina, claiming 177 lives.

In those same five years, more people died in large truck accidents in Cumberland County than in any of its neighboring counties with the exception of Robeson County. Cumberland County was the site of 15 truck fatalities between 2014 and 2018. In Robeson County, 28 people lost their lives in truck accidents in that time span.

Government regulations on driving hours

The FMCSA's Hours of Service rule limits the number of hours a trucker may work each week and each day. For drivers that haul products, not passengers, the maximum number of driving hours in a single day is 11 although they may work a total of 14 hours. The driving hours must follow a break from work that lasts at least 10 hours. Rests lasting at least 30 minutes must be taken after working eight hours. Work weeks may include up to 60 hours over seven days or up to 70 hours over eight days.

Government regulations tracking drive time

As one means of enforcing the Hours of Service rule, the FMCSA now requires commercial trucks to be outfitted with devices that electronically track and log essential data such as engine idle time and drive time. Devices must meet FMCSA certification standards and be registered with the FMCSA.

Advocacy and help after an accident

Residents in North Carolina who have been involved in an accident with a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle should contact an experienced attorney promptly to understand how they may protect their rights.