By: Roger D. Horgan
The job driving a large truck over long distances is exhausting. A good driver must be on high alert at all times because of the complexity of the task and the great harm tractor trailer accidents can cause. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations exist to protect the public from harm that these enormous, heavily loaded vehicles cause.
Among the most important regulations are those that prohibit drivers of commercial trucks from driving for too long. It is entirely predictable that a driver who is on the road—beyond the normal and safe limits of human endurance—will lose his edge. The driver then becomes a far greater risk of harm than one who is well rested.
It is the predictability of accidents caused by tired drives that exposes drivers and their employers to punitive damages claims—intended to punish wrongdoers—on top of normal compensatory damages. Pennsylvania Courts have ruled that failure to adhere to driving time limits can be considered recklessness and supports a claim for punitive damages, for example Gaffin v. George Walker, Jr. and Pocono Produce Co., Inc. There is no specific limit on the amount of punitive damages. This is why punitive damages remain an incentive for drivers and their employers to comply with the regulations…and save lives!