Truckers drive day and night, and sometimes do so without getting enough rest. This creates a dangerous situation in which truckers may be driving drowsy and too tired to drive safely.
Why Drowsy Driving is a Problem for Truckers
In the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, fatigue is one of the top 10 factors for large truck crashes. In 12 percent of truck driver crashes, driver non performance is cited as the critical reason for the crash. Non performance includes the driver falling asleep, being disabled by a heart attack or seizure, or another physical impairment.
There were 3,986 deaths in crashes involving large trucks in 2016. Unfortunately, this number is not getting better. The number of deaths in crashes involving large trucks has increased every year since 2009. Large truck crash deaths represent 11 percent of all crashes in the United States.
Truck Drivers May Struggle to Get Enough Sleep
While many industries maintain regular Monday through Friday office hours that allow for sleep at night, the trucking industry operates on a 24 hour schedule. Every hour of the day is available for driving, with many truck drivers working 80 hours a week, double what’s considered full time in many other industries.
Until 2016, truckers were required to take two nights off to rest before starting a new work week, with a requirement that they take 34 hours off including two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., offering rest during the early morning hours. Those requirements are no longer in place. While truckers still have to take at least a 34 hour break before starting a new work week, the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirement has been waived. Truckers can start driving again any time of day or night as long as they’ve had 34 hours of rest, which may not be adequate for alertness or safety.
Although restrictive, truckers often appreciate the sleep requirement because it ensures that they’re driving well rested. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find places to sleep on the road. Sometimes, drivers have to keep driving until they can find a place to park safely, even while they’re tired and ready to sleep.
Why Driving Drowsy is Dangerous
Driving while sleepy affects your ability to drive safely. Although falling asleep at the wheel is exceptionally dangerous, your driving is impaired even if you’re able to stay awake. According to the CDC, drowsiness can have effects on drivers including:
- Difficulty paying attention to the road
- Slower reaction time
- Impaired ability to make good decisions
The CDC cites commercial drivers of tractor trailers as a type of driver that’s among the most likely to drive drowsy.
How Truck Drivers Can Prevent Drowsy Driving Accidents
Recognizing the danger of drowsy driving is only half the battle. Taking action to prevent it is the only way to stop drowsy driving accidents. You can improve driving safety by:
- Meeting or exceeding federal safety laws. Rest at least as much as is required. Ideally, truckers should get at least two full nights of rest before restarting the work week, and at least seven to seven and a half hours of sleep each night or day throughout the week.
- Improving the quality of sleep. Sleep environments should be dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable. Although truckers often sleep in their rig, sleep times outside of the truck should be in the best environment possible. Ideally, a mattress that fits your needs for comfort and support should be used.
- Recognize the signs of drowsy driving. Frequently yawning or blinking, trouble remembering the last few miles, missing your exit, drifting from your lane, and hitting a rumble strip on the road are all signs that you’re too tired to drive and should pull over to rest immediately.
This post has been provided from our friends at Tuck – a community for advancing better sleep.