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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sleep Deprived Truckers

Companies often force their drivers to work shifts with little or no sleep. Risking their lives on the job.

On average, trucks serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach operated 470 times a day without the required break. Those trucks were involved in at least 189 crashes within a day of an extended period on the clock. Federal crash records do not indicate who was at fault. With some exceptions, federal rules say commercial truckers must take a 10hour break every 14 hours.

In August 2013, a Container Intermodal Transport trucker barreled into stopped traffic at 55 mph. A teenager was tragically killed, and seven people were sent to the hospital. Seven months later, a Pacific 9 Transportation driver had just finished his 45th hour on the clock in three days when he ran over and killed a woman crossing the street. A Gold Point Transportation truck was moving containers for 15 hours in one day when it crashed in Long Beach, California, injuring four.

Jose Juan Rodriguez, who drove for Morgan Southern for five years, said he sometimes worked 16-hour shifts for days at a time, a claim the company denied. He kept a bucket of ice water by his seat to splash on his face when he felt himself nodding off. More than once, he said, he found himself hallucinating, a side effect of extreme sleep deprivation. “There are some days when you can’t think right anymore,” he said. “You can’t tell if you’re driving or not. You just have to continue working.”

Recognizing a public health threat, the federal government began limiting commercial truckers’ driving hours in 1938, holding them to 60 hours a week. Decades of study led to more stringent rules as researchers concluded sleep-deprived drivers become exponentially more hazardous the longer they spend on the road.

Even so, the tools used to flag truckers who stay on the road too long haven’t changed much. Inspectors still rely heavily on paper logs maintained by the drivers themselves. The first federal mandate to install electronic log machines in commercial trucks took effect in late December, although questions remain about how quickly companies will comply.

Law enforcement officials and experts say companies are legally responsible for knowing their workers’ hours. It can be a federal crime if managers routinely encourage or pressure truckers to stay on the road past the limit. “Companies that force exhausted truck drivers to stay behind the wheel are gambling with the lives of everyone on the road,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement.

In the absence of an accurate tracking system, the USA TODAY Network used publicly available records to build a database noting each time a truck entered or exited the ports of Long Beach or Los Angeles. The data offer a rough sketch of how thousands of trucks operated each day from 2013 through 2016. They show 580,000 instances when trucks spent at least 14 hours on the road without a 10-hour break. Those would be violations if a truck was operated by just one driver.

The activity amounts to about 8.3% of port traffic but represents a substantial amount of time on the road. Assuming drivers picked up a new load each time they went in and out of a gate, those trucks moved 1.6 million shipping containers along Los Angeles area highways over four years.

If you were hurt or a loved one was severely injured or died in a trucking accident, immediate investigation and concerted legal action may be necessary to protect your right to seek maximum recovery. Contact us today for a free consultation.

At Miller Weisbrod, our clients are not statistics — they are real people in need of proactive, aggressive representation to defend their rights. Our Dallas truck accident attorneys are absolutely prepared to take on even the biggest trucking companies and commercial transportation operations across the United States. For more information, contact our offices in Dallas at 214.987.0005 to schedule an appointment.


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