When operated by drowsy drivers, large commercial trucks can threaten the lives of innocent motorists on the road.

Although commercial trucks are an essential component of the U.S. economy, many pose a significant threat to American motorists. Large truck accidents claimed the lives of 3,802 people in 2012, which is a substantial increase from the 3,211 people who were killed in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Virginia has also experienced a rise in large truck accident deaths, from 74 in 2011 to 89 in 2012. An additional 104,000 people were injured across the country in 2012 as a result of semi-truck accidents.

By sheer size alone, commercial tractor trailers threaten the lives of motorists on the road. These massive 80,000 pound vehicles must be operated by skilled drivers who know how to maneuver the large trucks around smaller motor vehicles. Even the best truck drivers can become dangerous if they spend too much time behind the wheel.

Hours of Service regulations

While there are many causes of commercial truck accidents, including inclement weather conditions, equipment malfunction, truck driver distraction and impairment, the federal government has attempted to reduce the number of drowsy truck drivers that traverse American roadways by revising the Hours of Service regulations.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted these regulations as a way to limit the amount of time large truck operators could spend behind the wheel. Under the new regulations, truck drivers cannot spend more than 11 hours each day behind the wheel. They are also required to take a half hour break during the first eight hours of each shift. Truckers are prohibited from working more than 70 hours a week, and those who do work a full week must rest for at least 34 consecutive hours, with at least two periods between 1 and 5 a.m., before venturing back out on the road.

Truck driver negligence

Despite federal regulations, some truckers and trucking companies choose to remain on the road. According to NBC News, trucking companies schedule drivers beyond FMCSA regulations in order to meet deadlines and prevent freight backup. Truck drivers are also encouraged to remain behind the wheel in order to make more money, as they are paid per mile. Truck driver fatigue can cause catastrophic car accidents which may result in severe injuries or death.

Find a Fairfax Truck Accident Attorney 

People who have been in a large truck collision may suffer from severe injuries or may have lost a loved one due to the devastating accident. The impact from large trucks can cause traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage and even paralysis. You may be entitled to compensation for the change of life you've experienced as a result of someone else's negligence and bad judgment. You may want to consider partnering with a personal injury attorney who can explain all of your legal rights and options.