The Real Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
Posted on Apr 1 , 2013
They’re the biggest things on the road: semi-trucks rolling on our nation’s highways and interstates at high speeds. Fatigued drivers of the super-sized trucks are disproportionately involved in fatal crashes and accidents involving serious injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board states that “truck driver fatigue may be a contributing factor in as many as 30 to 40 percent of all heavy truck accidents.”
Fatigue Behind the Wheel of a Big TruckWhen the driver of an 80,000-pound commercial truck is fatigued or otherwise failing to drive safely, bad things can happen. Though big rigs account for only four percent of vehicles on the road, they’re disproportionately involved in eleven percent of crash fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that truck driver fatigue was the main cause of thirteen percent of all fatal crashes involving a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle. Driver fatigue can be caused by any number of reasons, including:
- Lack of sleep
- Driving too many hours consecutively
- Driving too many hours with inadequate off-duty time
- Pressure to deliver loads
- Decreased alertness. Losing one and a half hours of needed sleep (adults typically need seven hours nightly) results in a 32 percent decrease in daytime alertness.
- Impaired memory and a lessening of the ability to think clearly and process information efficiently.
- A doubling of the risk of sustaining an injury at work.
- Weakening of the immune system.
Driving RestrictionsBecause of the pressures employers place on truck drivers to drive long hours over great distances, the government has imposed a series of restrictions on the amount of time big rig drivers may spend behind the wheel. Some of the restrictions include the following:
- Drivers may drive a maximum of 11 consecutive hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty
- Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after going on duty (following 10 consecutive off-duty hours)
- Drivers may not drive after more than 60 hours on-duty in one week or drive after more than 70 hours on-duty in eight days. Drivers can restart either seven or eight consecutive-day duty periods after 34 or more consecutive off-duty hours.