Truck Driver Fatigue: Research Reveals A Growing Problem
I’ve written several articles about truck driver health and fatigue. These are serious safety issues on Alabama roads and highways. All of us have felt uneasy as a big truck zoomed past us on the Interstate. We need truck drivers who are healthy and alert.
Both health and fatigue are related. How? Truck drivers suffer much higher rates of health issues like sleep apnea, diabetes and obesity. These conditions can create problems with sleep, concentration and awareness. My past articles discuss several ways we can improve truck driver health and make our roads safer for all.
Researchers at Ball State University recently published a new study involving sleep and workers. The study is titled Short Sleep Duration in Working American Adults, 2010-2018. What makes the study interesting is that it gathered data over a long period of time.
What professions have the highest level of sleep deprivation? Transport and Material Moving is one of them. This includes commercial truckers and other working drivers. The study found that 41% of workers in the transportation field suffered serious sleep deprivation. Personally, I think the percentage is even higher as the problem is underreported in annual surveys. It’s also significant that the rate of trucker sleep deprivation rose 28% from 2010 to 2018. The problem is serious and growing.
Other studies have suggested that fatigue is a factor in (at least) 30%-40% of all commercial truck crashes. Again, I think fatigue is an even greater factor than shown by studies. Why do I believe sleep deprivation and fatigue is such a significant factor in commercial truck accidents?
Trucking companies push truckers to drive as many hours as possible. For some companies, safety is NOT an essential issue. When truckers do have a few hours to rest, that rest is often poor due to health issues. Drowsiness and fatigue are underreported following accidents for several reasons:
Drivers are not always aware that they fell briefly asleep behind the wheel. If they are aware, they still may not report the problem.
Drivers have a rush of adrenaline following a crash. This makes them more alert at the scene when law enforcement arrives.
Drivers face no test to determine the level of fatigue. Compare this to other issues. You can perform a breathalyzer on drivers for alcohol. You can obtain cell phone records to investigate distracted driving. No test measures fatigue in the seconds before a deadly crash.
When we handle commercial trucking accident cases, we investigate the truck driver’s activities in the days and weeks before the crash. The driver is not likely to admit fatigue. But, you can investigate and piece together the driver’s pre-accident activities. On a national level, we need to push for real safety rules that protect driver health, promote driver rest and prevent deadly highway crashes.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we help clients injured in serious automobile or commercial truck crashes across Alabama. For more information on the truck driver health and safety issues discussed in this post, you can read some of our prior articles which include: