Truck Driver Fatigue: The Common Truck Crash Cause You Don’t Want to Sleep On

We’ve all done it.

We’ve all driven while tired.  We’ve turned the music up.  We’ve rolled the windows down.  We’ve chewed gum.  We’ve drank some soda (or an energy drink).  We’ve pushed through and managed some way to get to our destination.

We don’t do it on purpose, fatigue just seems to hit occasionally and  without. Fortunately, most of us do not make a living out on the road and those occasional moments of extreme road fatigue are few and far between.

But truck drivers do make their living on the road. Because of the time they spend on the road, truck drivers operate their vehicle when fatigued much more than you might think, and as a result, they can cause devastating truck crashes.


Truck driver fatigue is a well-known cause of trucking accidents. In fact, the U. S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety established regulations to restrict the hours of service (commonly referred to as HOS) in order to help prevent driver fatigue.

However, even with these regulations, the National Transportation Safety Board still reports that truck driver fatigue is causes 20 to 40% of truck crashes in the United States.  That is a huge percentage of crashes being caused by sleepy truck drivers.  (Always assume that the tuck does not see you.  Defensive driving saves lives).

To put a finer point on that statistic: there are 5,200 deaths each year due to truck accidents caused by sleep deprived truck drivers and 100,000 injuries each year due to truck driver fatigue.


It goes without saying that driving a large commercial truck for extensive periods of time across extremely wide distances requires a person to be well rested and alert.

It also goes without saying that tired truck drivers pose an enormous risk to other vehicles on the road. In 1937, the Supreme Court of Virginia recognized these dangers stating:

These trucks, sometimes inordinate in size, measurably monopolize our highways and add to the peril of their use, and it is in the light of their potential destructiveness that a high degree of care is but ordinary care. Boggs v. Plybon, 157 Va. 30, 160 S.E. 77. Automobiles may not be in themselves dangerous instrumentalities but freight cars which operate along the public highway, intended for the common use of all the people, are.

Aronovitch v. Ayres, 169 Va. 308, 318, 193 S.E. 524, 526 (1937).

Truck driver fatigue can cause accidents in numerous ways: causing drivers to veer off the road, hindering their ability to remain in the correct lane, causing them to incorrectly judge distances, and also decreasing their reaction times.


Truck drivers and their regulators realize that this is a problem, so why haven’t we put an end to accidents resulting from truck driver fatigue?  Unfortunately, due to the nature of their work, there are many opportunities for truck drivers to encounter consistent periods of sleep deprivation.  Truck drivers are often operating under enormous pressure to meet (sometimes unrealistic) deadlines.  They are more than likely also operating under stressful and long work hours (made worse by long work weeks).  We should also add that they are probably trying to make time, or regain time lost by being in traffic.  The only way to compete against lost time is to speed or sacrifice sleep, both of which create dangerous circumstances for other vehicles and their passengers sharing the road.

Also, as discussed above, sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to driver fatigue, it just happens . . . and when it does, it is time to pull over for a little nap rather than endangering your fellow driver.


If you or someone you know has recently been involved in a trucking accident, driver fatigue might have been the cause.  You can’t know for sure until you contact a lawyer who has the resources to mount a thorough investigation into the circumstances.

Contact our trucking accident attorneys.  We’ll wake the trucking companies up for you.