Beebe and O'Neil

Driver fatigue is a leading factor of heavy truck accidents

Commercial truck drivers carry a large load: 80,000 pounds, to be exact. That barreling weight causes a lot of damage if it’s not maneuvered efficiently. Fatigued driving is a symptom that occasionally affects all of us. But while driving is a means for traveling to and from our jobs, driving is a truck driver’s sole responsibility.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires truck drivers to take breaks, and only drive a certain number of hours a week. When drivers don’t comply with break rules, fatigue may occur, and what follows could be fatal.

Lack of sleep, driving too many hours in a short time span, and deadline pressure can lead to the loss of much-needed rest. Despite regulations, mistakes still happen, and truck driver fatigue contributes to 30 to 40 percent of semi-truck accidents.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a day. In reality, 30 percent of adult employees report they get about six hours or less per day. Unfortunately, included in this statistic are truck drivers. Their job is demanding and deadline-oriented, so lack of sleep can make matters worse.

Sleep isn’t the only factor that causes drowsy driving. Individual sleepiness in truck drivers is difficult to combat for various reasons, such as:

  • Time of day
  • Time between the last sleep cycle
  • Amount of sleep the day before
  • Individual susceptibility

Most commercial truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after every eight hours, but this is a hard thing to enforce. Sleep patterns change. A driver might not get an adequate amount of sleep before a scheduled delivery, but admitting they are too tired to complete the task could be looked down upon.

Fleets are constantly researching ways to improve driver attentiveness, and most take quality of sleep very seriously. For the most part, companies have a role in training and supporting drivers. But what drivers do on and off the road, such as sleeping habits and cat naps, is really up to them.

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