Dealing with fatigue on the road can pose a potent problem for any driver. For truck drivers, however, fatigue on the road can create an even more significant challenge—one that poses a danger to everyone around them.
Unfortunately, many truck drivers spend far too many hours out on the road, dealing with road haze and fatigue. Driver fatigue in Chicago's heavy traffic can spell disaster for truck drivers and the others who share the road with them.
Contact a Chicago truck accident attorney as soon after your truck accident as possible to get a better idea of the steps you need to take to protect yourself after an accident.
The Impact of Truck Driver Fatigue in Chicago
Chicago can prove challenging to navigate with its heavy traffic and multi-lane highways, even for a driver who has all of his wits about him. Fatigued truck drivers, on the other hand, may create even more problems.
Fatigue can cause truck drivers to suffer from tunnel vision.
Truck drivers already must maintain constant awareness of everything that happens around them, including paying particular attention to vehicles that happen to pass into their blind spots. Unfortunately, fatigue frequently leads to tunnel vision.
Drivers may struggle to see anything but what happens directly in front of them, including drivers attempting to change lanes or move through traffic. Tunnel vision can also make it hard for truck drivers to respond to other vehicles moving naturally around them, since they may never notice the presence of those vehicles. With no idea what happens directly outside those visible areas, much less in their blind spots, truck drivers may find it very difficult to avoid a collision.
Fatigue can make it difficult for truck drivers to keep up with their routes as they travel through Chicago.
Fatigued drivers often find themselves nodding off behind the wheel or forgetting the time they have spent on the road. Chicago's complex tangle of interstates—the Kennedy, Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, and Tri-State, among others—can make it very difficult to keep up with the route.
Fatigued drivers may have a hard time remembering to exit on time, or they might exit at the last second as they suddenly realize that they have passed a necessary exit.
Chicago's multi-lane highways can mean changing lanes abruptly, which may pose an even greater danger for other drivers around them.
Diagonal city streets like Milwaukee, Clark, Ridge, Lincoln, Clybourn, and Elston create a series of confusing six-way intersections that truckers—especially those from out of town—will navigate with great difficulty, especially when making sharp right turns.
Fatigued truck drivers may have slowed overall reaction times
Often, fatigue slows reaction times and makes it hard to respond to changing road conditions. Chicago sees precipitation an estimated 125 days out of the year. Those days of precipitation increase the hazards drivers may face on the roads and require substantially increased reflexes to help keep everyone safe. Unfortunately, fatigued truck drivers may lack the reflexes needed to respond to those conditions on the road, raising the risk that they will cause an accident.
In addition, slowed reflexes from fatigue may increase the severity of truck accidents. An alert truck driver may have the means to control the trajectory of a big truck or make choices that can decrease the impact of an accident. A fatigued driver, on the other hand, may respond too slowly to that risk, which may increase the damage suffered by everyone in the accident.
Fatigue can make it difficult for truck drivers to make effective decisions.
Simply choosing to drive while fatigued may indicate poor decision-making skills. However, severe fatigue can make it more difficult for truck drivers to make good decisions on the road. Drivers may choose to speed or ignore the road rules due to increasing fatigue, as they struggle to determine the best way to navigate safely and prevent potential risk to others.
Unfortunately, poor decision-making can quickly result in disaster, especially when truck drivers make poor decisions like failing to use turn signals or failing to accurately gauge how much room they may need to change lanes.
Drowsy truck drivers may fall asleep behind the wheel.
In a worst-case scenario, drowsy drivers may fall asleep behind the wheel—and for truck drivers, that can quickly spell disaster. The average big truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. That can send 80,000 pounds out of control if a truck driver falls asleep behind the wheel.
Sometimes, a truck driver who grows increasingly fatigued may simply engage in microsleeps: nodding off for seconds, after which he jerks awake and returns his attention to the road. Other times, however, truck drivers may fully fall asleep, which may mean that they do not wake up until the truck hits something on the road.
Drowsy truck drivers may prove more likely to drift out of their lanes.
Big trucks naturally take up a great deal of room on the road, which means truck drivers need considerably more space before they can change lanes safely. Sometimes, however, truck drivers who have grown drowsy may have enough trouble controlling their vehicles that they end up drifting into another lane of traffic. A sideswipe collision with a truck can mean immense damage to the vehicle and substantial injury to everyone in the vehicle.
Why Chicago Truck Drivers May Struggle with Fatigue
Truck drivers, as a whole, spend a lot of time on the road. Some drivers naturally struggle more with fatigue than others. However, Chicago truck drivers may face various challenges that can increase the risk that they will grow fatigued and potentially cause an accident.
Truck drivers can spend many hours on the road long before they reach Chicago.
According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, truck drivers have up to fourteen consecutive hours to complete eleven hours behind the wheel out of each shift. They must take a break at the eight-hour mark but may otherwise choose to stay behind the wheel for essentially the whole of their shifts.
Eleven hours per day on the road can build up a great deal of fatigue, both in road haze and actual exhaustion. In many cases, truck drivers may grow increasingly tired as the day wears on, particularly near the end of their shifts.
Those long hours can prove particularly problematic when truck drivers take on long hauls or work multiple days in a row. While FMCSA regulations specify the number of days truck drivers can spend on the road without a break, they may still lack adequate time to rest before many of their shifts.
Truck drivers spend a lot of nights away from home.
Sleeping in unfamiliar environments, or trying to sleep on the truck, can make it much more difficult for truck drivers to get adequate rest each day. Often, they may find themselves tossing and turning, rather than getting a good night's sleep.
Ambient noise that changes from night to night, changing light patterns, and other shifts to normal sleeping schedules can make it difficult for drivers to sleep. Not only that, many truck drivers may find themselves keeping irregular hours.
Many truck drivers use alcohol and other substances to help them “turn off” at night.
Truck drivers have a high rate of alcohol and even substance abuse. Many of them spend long hours on the road, away from friends and family, regularly. They may have a hard time falling asleep on their own or use alcohol to cope with loneliness.
Unfortunately, while alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep, it may decrease overall sleep quality. That decreased sleep quality can lead to increased drowsiness on the road the next day. Furthermore, the influence of alcohol can leave a truck driver drowsy and out of sorts even after he gets up for his next shift.
Truck drivers feel a great deal of pressure to meet often-unreasonable expectations.
Truck drivers often function under a cascade of demands that can make it very difficult for them out on the road. Some truck drivers face tight delivery deadlines and demands from their employers. Pulling off the road to catch a nap or to wake back up can mean that they miss their delivery deadlines, which may have financial consequences or even cause them to lose their jobs.
Others feel the pressure of declining numbers of truck drivers and increasing shortages across the nation. Though they can only take one load at a time, they may push themselves with unrealistic demands to keep up with the needs of their employers.
That pressure may cause truck drivers to engage in dangerous behaviors, including pushing the number of hours they spend on the road or refusing to take time to rest, even when they know they suffer from immense exhaustion.
Some trucking companies have unrealistic and even illegal policies for their drivers.
Some companies may not fully track the hours their drivers spend out on the road, especially if they feel the pressure of the driver shortage or have tight deadlines they need to meet.
Others may outright encourage their drivers to ignore FMCSA regulations and to spend more hours on the road than they legally should. Trucking companies with those dangerous policies may share liability when their drivers cause an accident, but that does not prevent the extensive damage that may occur because of fatigued truck drivers spending too many hours behind the wheel.
Truck drivers may, in some cases, drive at odd hours.
Some truck drivers work in pairs, trading off as they reach the end of their shifts so that they can keep their loads moving even when one driver reaches the end of his federally limited number of hours on the road.
Others may choose to deliberately drive odd hours. Driving late at night, for example, may mean fewer other vehicles on the road, which may mean fewer traffic jams and an easier route.
However, driving at odd hours can increase the risk of a collision. Many drivers naturally become more fatigued at night, even if they get used to the schedule or handle it regularly. As that fatigue sets in, drivers may find it very difficult to safely control their vehicles at night.
Who Bears Liability for Fatigued Truck Driver Accidents in Chicago?
Most often, the fatigued truck driver will bear liability for an accident caused by that fatigue. Ultimately, truck drivers have to decide when they can safely drive. Choosing to drive despite immense fatigue can leave a driver liable for any damages he might cause when that fatigue causes him to make poor decisions or even causes him to nod off behind the wheel.
In some cases, however, the trucking company that employs the driver may bear liability for an accident caused by the driver's fatigue. The trucking company may bear liability when it forces or encourages drivers to continue driving while fatigued, from policies that prohibit a driver from stopping before the scheduled end of a run to those that ignore the federal restriction on the number of hours truckers can drive.
An experienced Chicago truck accident attorney can review a trucking company's policies to get a better idea of whether the company contributed to an accident.
Work With a Chicago Truck Accident Lawyer After a Fatigued Truck Driver Accident
If you suffer injuries in an accident with a fatigued truck driver in Chicago, you need a truck accident attorney who can help you navigate your claim.