Maine Truck Accident Caused by Driver Who Fell Asleep

The driver of a tractor-trailer packed with sawdust and wood chips narrowly escaped serious injury after he reportedly fell asleep, crossed the center line and slammed into a ditch on the opposite side of the road before the rig turned on its side. 

The crash occurred on Route 150 in Athens. The 50-year-old trucker told responding authorities that he fell asleep while driving and then work up in a ditch. He was transported to a local hospital as a precaution, the Kennebec Journal reported, but was soon thereafter released. It’s fortunate no other motorists were on that particular stretch of road when the truck accident occurred, as these large vehicles have the potential to cause catastrophic and fatal injuries, especially if one were to hit a passenger vehicle head on in the opposing lane.

Drowsy driving is a major problem in the trucking industry, with the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, published annually by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, revealing 13 percent of all commercial motor vehicle drivers were deemed “fatigued” at the time of the collision. The FMCSA defines “fatigue” as exertion – either physical or mental – that results in impaired performance. Truck drivers are especially prone to fatigue because they often suffer from inadequate sleep, brutal work schedules and monotonous work. 

The FMCSA does have federal hours of service rules in place to try to combat this. Drivers of rigs over 10,000 pounds have an 11-hour driving limit (maximum 11 hours of drive-time a day, following 10 consecutive hours off-duty), assuming they are only carrying property and not passengers. These drivers also have a maximum 14-hour on-duty limit, which means they can’t be “on-duty” more than 14 consecutive hours, even if they haven’t yet reached that 11-hour drive time maximum. Commercial drivers carrying passengers have a 10-hour daily driving limit, following 8 consecutive hours off-duty.

Not all truck drivers follow this and not all trucking companies are careful to enforce it either. The reality is the more mileage these truckers put in the faster shipments are fulfilled – and that means more money lining those pockets. Although truckers are required by law to log their hours of service, those that are recorded manually haven’t always proven the most reliable. An increasing number of trucking companies are turning to electronic logging devices that automatically register when the truck is on and moving. Just this year, the electronic logging device rule, enacted in 2015, as part of the MAP-21 initiative for safer roads and workplaces, began the phase-in compliance phase of the enactment. It is expected that by December 2019, there will be full compliance with the rule for mandatory use of electronic logging devices by those carriers required to maintain such logs.

That won’t necessarily eliminate the problem of fatigued truckers, but it will help address some of the more problematic instances of skirting the hours of service rules.

As far as civil liability, our Maine truck accident attorneys recognize there may be several avenues to pursue. Claims are typically made not just against the driver, but also the carrier and the truck owner. It may not not be necessary to file a lawsuit, as some claims could be resolved with negotiation with insurance agents. However, given the fact that these accidents very often result in serious injury or death, the stakes are quite high, which means truck carriers and insurers fight hard to minimize the damage payouts. Our legal team will fight for what’s in your best interests. Having in-depth knowledge of federal and state rules and requirements for commercial trucking firms gives us a solid advantage.

If you are the victim of a Maine truck accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Wood chip truck driver says he fell asleep in Athens, woke up in ditch, Dec. 6, 2017, By Doug Harlow, Kennebec Journal

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