Semitrailers can be extremely dangerous. It doesn’t take a major mistake for one of these massive vehicles to veer into oncoming traffic or slam into slowed or stopped traffic.
In fact, a trucker who takes his eyes off the road for even a split-second can cause a catastrophic truck accident. As scary as that may sound, what is even more terrifying is the reality that major mistakes are made by truckers and truck companies on a daily basis, thereby endangering those on the road around these vehicles.
Take, for example, sleep apnea, a medical condition that affects more than one-fourth of all truckers. Sufferers of this condition struggle to breathe while they sleep, causing their body to involuntarily jerk awake to reinitiate breathing. These sleep disruptions can occur as many as 400 times in a single night, depending on the condition’s severity. In turn, these disruptions can cause extreme fatigue and tiredness in drivers. Far too often these motorists nod off while behind the wheel.
Making matters worse is the fact that many individuals who have sleep apnea are unaware that they have the condition. This means that they oftentimes don’t seek out the medical treatment they need until a serious incident, like a truck accident, spurs them to do so. Also, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is responsible for regulating the trucking industry, doesn’t have any rules specific to sleep apnea. Instead, the agency only specifies that those with a medical condition that is likely to affect one’s ability to safely drive are disallowed from operating a truck. Then, once documentation of treatment has been provided to the agency, a trucker may be deemed medically qualified to drive.
Far too often, truckers and their employers try to cut corners. This may mean violating hours of service regulations or improperly securing cargo. In other instances it means attempting to hide a medical condition that seriously affects one’s ability to safely drive a truck. This is why engaging in diligent discovery during the personal injury litigation process is so crucial. Oftentimes this is the only way to uncover issues like these and use them to one’s advantage.