Grimes & Fertitta, P.C.

A fatal mix: Port truckers and overtime hours

The Port of Houston is a 25-mile-long stretch of loading docks and cargo storage. It is the busiest port in the U.S. for the import and export of foreign tonnage and the second busiest for overall tonnage.

The constant arrival and departure of goods means port truckers work long hours to keep up with the demand. But when drivers work reckless amounts of overtime hours, which are often required to keep up, they expose themselves and other drivers on the road to significant risk.

Tracing movement via time stamps

A recent USA Today article examined trucking accidents related to the long hours required of truckers working for port trucking companies in Los Angeles. Reporters used time stamps to trace the movement of trucks through gates in the Los Angeles area.

Their analysis found that the trucks operated without the required break times, sometimes working 20-hour-long shifts. Reporters also found that 189 of the trucks were involved in crashes during an extended period of on-the-clock driving. The crashes frequently ended in tragic fatalities.

Although the article focused on truckers in the Los Angeles area, it highlighted the threat of fatigued drivers on roadways near ports across the nation.

Failure to comply

Truck drivers and the companies they work for are required to comply with state and federal safety regulations. The regulations are in place to prevent accidents and ensure safe vehicle operation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) employs Hours of Service (HOS) regulations to limit driver fatigue. Drivers carrying property may only drive for 11 consecutive hours after having 10 hours off duty. Also, drivers may only be on duty for 14 hours at a time, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. The HOS rules also enforce an hour limit for consecutive shifts wherein a driver may not drive for 34 hours after working 60 or 70 hours in 7 or 8 days, respectively.

Negligence and tragedy

Trucks can weigh as much as 30 times more than a passenger car, so when a truck collides with a much smaller car, the car driver is much more likely to suffer serious injuries or die. Additionally, fatigue has been proven to slow down reaction time to possible road hazards.

Those injured in a collision with a truck may be able to establish negligence if the driver or trucking company violated trucking regulations.

Evidence for the claim can be used to support a personal injury case or a wrongful death lawsuit if the accident resulted in a fatality. While a claim will not repair the damage caused by the accident, compensation obtained through a suit can help with lost wages, medical expenses and other financial burdens resulting from the accident.

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