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Dealing with truck driver fatigue

Commercial truck drivers in California and around the country are subject to federal regulations that prohibit them from operating their vehicles when they are fatigued. The lack of a truly objective test for fatigue has hindered efforts to measure the exact dimensions of the problem, and earlier attempts to impose a standard have been found to violate the drivers' Fourth Amendment rights.

Truck driver fatigue has been regulated at the federal level for quite some time. However, medical professionals and legislators have been unable to agree on an objective, testable method for measuring tiredness. There were attempts in Minnesota to institute a checklist system, in which truck drivers were required to answer a series of questions that would theoretically reveal whether or not they were too exhausted to operate their vehicle, but the test was challenged and ultimately struck down.

Fatigue can only be detected through the observed actions of the driver, and there is no quantitative test for fatigue or even the possibility of one. Industry groups have come to the conclusion that drivers are to be accused of violating rules against fatigue only when they are so obviously and overwhelmingly exhausted that they must be given an out-of-service order.

Unfortunately, accidents that are caused by sleep-deprived drivers continue to be a serious problem. The sheer size and weight of many commercial vehicles place those who are in passenger cars that are in a collision at great risk. If it can be successfully demonstrated by the attorney for an injured victim that the crash was caused by truck driver fatigue, compensation could be sought from both the driver and the trucking company.

Source: Overdrive Online, "Amid 'fatigued driver' out-of-service discussions, panel releases report on research into fatigue measurement", Todd Dills, March 10, 2016

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