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Report calls for more research into truck driver fatigue

Semi-tractor trailers are a familiar sight in Arkansas and around the country, and road users rely on federal safety regulations to ensure that these large and heavy vehicles are adequately maintained and their drivers properly trained. Federal laws limit the amount of uninterrupted time that truck and bus drivers can spend behind the wheel, but experts point out that it is possible for drivers to be fatigued to the point of exhaustion while remaining well within the law. The Minnesota State Police at one time provided its officers with a truck driver fatigue checklist, but it was struck down in 2011 for violating the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Truck drivers too are confused about where to draw the line when it comes to fatigue, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2014 to clarify the regulation dealing with the issue. However, the findings of a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published on March 10 indicates that more work may need to be done before the FMCSA grants this request.

The U.S. Department of Transportation report concluded that there are substantial gaps in the research that has so far looked into driver fatigue, and almost all of the data that is available has been provided by a relatively small number of large carriers. The report points out that most truck drivers are independent owner-operators or work for small or medium sized companies, and little is known about their driving behavior or sleep patterns.

Lawsuits stemming from truck accidents caused by truck driver fatigue may be brought against either the drivers involved or their employers. Personal injury attorneys may initiate litigation against truck drivers who have ignored federal regulations or continued to drive past the point of fatigue, and they may sue the carriers themselves when the companies do not abide by federal laws or adequately train their drivers.

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