Fight Over Driver Fatigue Rules Continues in Minnesota

For safety reasons, for all drivers and passengers on the road, authorities establish certain requirements for truck drivers, including rules aimed at keeping fatigued truck drivers off of the road.

Understanding the safety risks that driver fatigue poses, the Minnesota State Patrol and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance established a checklist for determining whether a driver was fatigued at the time of an accident. It is the use of this checklist that led to a lawsuit which was filed a few years ago in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

In the lawsuit, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) challenged the checklist as a violation of truck drivers’ constitutional rights. The OOIDA won this initial suit.

In its final order, the court put “very specific limitations” on the types of rules that can be issued to combat fatigued driving, according to Land Line. The order’s limitations include:

  • Officers cannot expand the driver portion of the inspection to determine impairment unless they have a reasonable articulable suspicion
  • Officers cannot order a driver out of service for fatigue or illness unless there is probable cause to believe the drive is unsafe due to fatigue or illness

After the order was issued, the CVSA established new fatigue rules, most notably that officers can take a truck driver off the road based on reasonable articulable suspicion, a level the OOIDA says is lower than and not in line with the federal court order. OOIDA has filed a motion with the federal court in Minnesota challenging the new rules and asking the court to find the CVSA in contempt for knowingly violating the court order. A hearing date is set for September 2012.

When truck drivers become fatigued it is especially dangerous to all on the road. Big rigs are much larger than passenger vehicles and can cause a lot of physical harm and even death to other drivers when truck accidents occur.

In the upper Midwest, cities are much farther apart than other areas of the country, so to reach their destinations, truck drivers need to drive a lot of miles. For example, it may be tempting for a driver, even though fatigued, to continue driving on Interstate 94 across the plains of Minnesota just to get home. However, this is very dangerous. Regardless of how this particular suit is ultimately handled, the fight to keep fatigued drivers off the road is far from over at the legislative and personal injury lawsuit levels.

If you’ve been involved in an accident with a fatigued semi-truck driver, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about your legal rights.