How Common is Truck Driver Fatigue?
The Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue
Over 5,000 fatal truck crashes occurred in 2019 nationwide, one of the highest rates of these collisions in recent years. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 13% of these involved a drowsy truck driver.
To better understand the impacts and dangers of truck driver fatigue, continue reading to learn about key statistics and the FMCSA hours of service regulations put in place to combat this issue.
Why is Trucker Fatigue Dangerous?
When any driver doesn't get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel, it can significantly affect their cognitive and physical function. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that not only does it increase your chances of falling asleep or nodding off while driving, but it can:
- Cause slower reaction times.
- Lead to poor decision-making.
- Make you experience "tunnel vision."
- Increase forgetfulness, including how many miles you have traveled.
- Cause drifting into other lanes.
If a truck driver is fatigued, it can have even more devastating impacts due to the size and weight of the vehicle.
Drowsy Driving Statistics
Here are some key findings from studies on how fatigue can affect truck drivers:
- Truck drivers average less than 5 hours of sleep per night. The CDC recommended amount for adults is 7 to 9 hours.
- About 64% of truck drivers experience some kind of fatigue regularly.
- Insomnia is found in about 27.5% of truck drivers.
- Roughly 18% of truck drivers report falling asleep behind the wheel.
- Earlier studies indicate that drowsy driving could be involved in upwards of 40% of truck crashes.
- About 50% of accidents involving driver fatigue take place between midnight and 8 am.
Along with these, the National Safety Council reports that driving fatigued can have equivalent effects on the body as having a BAC of 0.08%.
Preventing Driver Fatigue
Drivers have a responsibility to only get behind the wheel when they are of sound mind and body, which means that driving when fatigued should be avoided. While the FMCSA has provisions in place to reduce this and penalties for causing an accident when drowsy, there are many things that the driver can do to combat these dangers, including:
- Get the recommended hours of sleep before your shift.
- Take longer breaks if you begin to feel signs of tiredness while driving (yawning, heavy eyes, losing concentration, etc.).
- Keep your body fueled with food and water.
- Avoid consuming any amount of alcohol as this can increase fatigue.
- If you can, avoid driving at times when the body is naturally drowsy, usually between 12 and 6 am.
Using some or all of these techniques can greatly reduce your risk of these preventable accidents.
How the FMCSA Combats Driver Fatigue
Over the past ten years, many updates have been made to the FMCSA hours of service regulations aimed at reducing the incidence rate of truck driver fatigue. These revisions include:
- Reducing the maximum workweek from 82 hours to 70.
- Requiring a 30-minute break during the first eight hours on duty.
- Allowing drivers to work greater than 70 hours if they take 34 hours of rest time, including two nights.
In 2020, new exceptions were introduced to allow for more flexibility while still accounting for the safety of the drivers and others on the road. These included:
- Short Hauls: Expanded to 150 air-miles and a 14-hour shift.
- Adverse Driving Conditions: May expand drive time by up to two hours in adverse driving conditions.
- 30-Minute Breaks: Requires breaks after each 8-hour interval of driving; non-driving or off-duty periods may apply to this.
Sleeper Berth Provision
Along with these, the sleeper berth provision was modified to allow drivers to split rest periods while still meeting the 10-hour minimum. In this modification, drivers are required to spend at least 7 hours in the berth combined with no less than two hours of off-duty time inside or outside of the berth. These split periods must equal at least 10 hours when combined.
Truck Accident? Call Daniel, Holoman & Associates LLP.
Dozens of North Carolina drivers and passengers lose their lives each year because of truck crashes. When these occur because of preventable factors like a drowsy driver, know that you have a right to obtain financial compensation.
Attorney Butler Daniel spent years working as an insurance defense attorney for trucking companies and understands how complex these cases can be. If you or a loved one became injured or lost their lives in a truck accident, our team can help. Call (866) 380-2281 or fill out this short form to schedule a free consultation with our team.