Federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to take regular rest breaks, not work more than a certain number of hours in a row, and not exceed a certain number of weekly work hours. The idea behind these and other related rules is to ensure that truckers get enough sleep and prevent trucking accidents caused by sleep-deprived drivers.
While well-intentioned, the way these regulations are designed might not get at a common tactic many trucking companies use: putting their drivers on Houston’s highways at night.
Unnatural work shifts affect sleep
Nighttime shifts are common practice in the U.S. trucking industry, partly because traffic is lighter then. It is possible to follow federal hours of service regulations any time of day or night. But nighttime driving ignores the human body’s circadian rhythms, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Most human beings are naturally inclined to sleep at night and be active during the day. Among other things, workers who regularly do graveyard shifts tend to get less quality sleep. Over time, fatigue builds up and puts everyone else on the road in serious danger of a wreck.
Is the employer also responsible?
A semi-truck driver who causes a crash with a passenger vehicle because they were driving while drowsy is liable for any resulting injuries. The trucking company they work for might also be liable. If the company contributed to the conditions that led to the crash — such as by requiring the driver to pull an all-night shift or hiring an inexperienced driver — Texas law allows victims to pursue a claim against it as well as the driver.