Most might view driver fatigue to be a problem that only traditional motorists in New York face, not those that drive for a living. After all, being behind the wheel is a commercial driver’s livelihood; why would he or she risk that by not being at his or her best (both mentally and physically) at all times? Yet one might argue that such drivers are at an even greater risk to push themselves beyond their normal limits while behind the wheel in order to maximize the number of hours they can work. This may be the reason why commercial vehicle accidents (including bus accidents) continue to be a problem. Indeed, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that 4,440 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal accidents in 2015 alone.
To curtail the potential of commercial vehicle driver fatigue, federal regulations have been established limiting the number of hours such drivers can work. Per the FMCSA, the hours-of-service regulations for those transporting passengers include:
- Not driving more than 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off duty
- Not driving at all after having been on duty 15 hours (after having spent eight consecutive hours off duty)
- Not driving more than 60/70 hours a period of 7/8 consecutive days
Yet short of finding a bus driver involved in an accident asleep at wheel, how is one to know if he or she may have been in violation of these guidelines? Drivers are required to clearly document the hours that they work. Violations noted in their records might be an indicator that they pushed themselves to the point of experiencing drowsiness. Falsifying driving time records can lead to additional penalties on top of the liability a driver may face after having caused an accident.