In a recent decision from the Tennessee Workers Compensation Panel, Keith v. Western Express (2/16/12) , a truck driver who says he was ordered to deliver a load in California by a certain time was denied workers compensation benefits because he violated Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations governing hours-of-service while trying to get there on time. He apparently went to sleep at the wheel and wrecked his truck in New Mexico. The driver presented the case as an example of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The driver felt that he would have been fired or disciplined for being late. But, it was clearly impossible for him to have made the delivery deadline and not violated the hours-of-service rules. When the wreck occurred, he had driven over 36 hours without a 10 hour break, according to the on-board Qualcomm system.
There is no excuse for a truck driver falling asleep at the wheel of a loaded tractor-trailer, and now Tennessee may deny workers compensation benefits to drivers who are injured while violating Federal Motor Carrier Regulations, provided there is a causal connection between the violation and the injury.