A recent USA Today investigation into port trucking companies in the Los Angeles area has uncovered some sobering information about the increase of fatigued truck drivers on the road. The news agency found that impaired drivers are put on the road daily, with trucking companies pressuring them to work on barely any sleep and in violation of safety laws.
In August 2013, for example, a trucker with Container Intermodal Transport hit stopped cars while going 55 mph, killing a young man and injuring seven other people. In that case, the trucker testified that he often broke the mandatory sleep time laws. Less than a year later, a driver at Pacific 9 Transportation struck and killed a woman who was crossing the street while he was on his 45th hour of driving in just three days.
USA Today reporters examined the movements of thousands of L.A.-area trucks over the last four years using the time stamps issued every time a driver passes a port gate. Using this research, they determined how long each truck was in operation and checked those results against the federal crash data from 2013 to 2016.
On average, the reporters found that L.A. and Long Beach port trucks operated without the required break around 470 times each day. These same trucks were also involved in more than 150 crashes within 24 hours of excessively long hours.
With a few exceptions, federal regulations mandate commercial truckers take one ten-hour break for every 14 hours of driving.
The reporters investigating these troubling findings contacted transportation companies for a response, but all of those firms denied allowing their drivers to violate the break rules. Some companies did note that drivers may share trucks, which could account for longer hours of operation. However, truck drivers who spoke to USA Today said this is not true as truck sharing is now rare due to company policies banning the practice.
Many truck drivers also say they are forced to work long hours regularly by trucking companies. Trucker driver Humberto Solares, for example, is currently involved in an ongoing civil case with Gold Point Transportation, a company he alleges cheated him out of pay by charging him for equipment belonging to the company. Solares also claims the company’s managers used threats to get him to work around the clock and well past the legal hour limit set by federal laws.
Another driver, Jose Juan Rodriguez, said the company he previously worked for regularly put him on 16-hour shifts, and he kept a bucket of ice water near him when he drove so he could splash his face with it when he was nodding off behind the wheel. Rodriguez also said he would sometimes hallucinate, which is a symptom of extreme sleep deprivation.
Unfortunately, stories of fatigued truck drivers causing accidents nationwide are increasingly common and clearly illustrated by this in-depth USA Today report. Until truck companies place safety over profits, there’s always a chance an exhausted driver could cause a terrible accident. If you have been in an accident involving a truck, contact an attorney, like a trucking accident lawyer Denver CO relies on, about your case.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Offices of Richard J. Banta for their insight into truck accident cases.