Truck driving is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. That is due in part to the problem of fatigue among commercial truckers. The average long-haul trucker logs 60 hours per week and racks up more than 100,000 miles every year. Those long shifts can be mentally and physically exhausting. According to data from the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, more than 13 percent of accidents involve a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver experiencing fatigue.
Over time, someone with fatigue lacks the energy and motivation to complete everyday tasks. That is problematic if your job requires physical and mental sharpness. Fatigue has a host of potential causes, which can be divided into three categories.
These are habits that come with the trucking lifestyle that increase the risk of fatigue:
- Mental exertion.
- Poor sleeping habits.
- Not enough rest.
- Lack of a nutritious diet.
- Lack of physical activity.
- Risk of alcohol and illicit substance use.
- Physical exertion, particularly for drivers who load and unload goods.
Fatigue is commonly a symptom of several mental health conditions, which can be exacerbated by time spent away from home and family. Conditions that may lead to fatigue include anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
Medical conditions linked to the trucking lifestyle may also cause fatigue, such as:
- Sleep disorders.
The medications used to treat or manage these and other health conditions can also cause grogginess and dangerous interactions when taken together.
How Does Fatigue Impair Driving?
The effects of fatigue and sleep deprivation on the body and mind are remarkably similar to those that happen after consuming alcohol. In terms of impairment, going 24 hours without sleep is the equivalent of having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.10, which is over the legal limit in Ohio.
Fatigue slows reaction time, reduces awareness of hazards, and affects the ability to stay attentive. A fatigued truck driver may miss exits, turns, and traffic signs and signals. They can have difficulty maintain the proper speed and staying in their lane.
Microsleep episodes are another serious risk facing overworked and overtired truck drivers. Microsleep episodes are short, involuntary periods of inattention. During a microsleep episode, a person can fall asleep for four to five seconds or more. If that person is behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound truck moving down the highway at 65 miles per hour, the results can be catastrophic.
Is Fatigue Common Among Truck Drivers?
Despite extensive training and technology to educate and enforce safe driving habits, fatigue remains an ever-present risk in the trucking industry. One in four truckers admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel at least once in their career. That statistic is not surprising considering long-haul drivers average around five hours of sleep per 24-hour period, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
So, why is rest so elusive for commercial truck drivers? The trucking industry is under incredible demands to transport goods in a timely manner. According to the CDC, 73 percent of truck drivers find their deadlines to be unreasonably tight. Tight deadlines do not account for accidents, harsh weather, construction, and other hazards.
Unreasonable deadlines may compel some drivers to keep going past the point of fatigue and take unnecessary risks to arrive on time. They may forego mandatory breaks and violate federal hours of service (HOS) regulations to meet delivery dates and please management.
How to Determine if Fatigue Is a Factor in a Truck Accident?
An overtired truck driver is not only a danger to themselves, they are a threat to other drivers and pedestrians who share the road with them. When a truck accident happens and people are hurt, it is important to determine fault. Fatigue is not as easy to prove as alcohol impairment, but it is possible to show the truck driver was inattentive or sleepy at the time of a crash.
Law enforcement, insurance companies, and truck accident lawyers also look at a variety of evidence to determine causation. First, there is the driver’s demeanor. Were they observed swerving, speeding, or even nodding off?
Footage from surveillance cameras along the trucker’s route or at any of their stops may show the driver’s demeanor and even record the actual crash. Paper and/or electronic logs record service hours and breaks. Receipts for tolls and gas, and bills of lading records help investigators verify the driver’s route and schedule.
The trucking industry is part of the backbone of our nation’s economy. However, driving one of these imposing vehicles comes with enormous responsibility. If you or someone you care about has been injured in a large truck accident, consult a lawyer to find out if legal options are available.
Cincinnati Truck Accident Lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office Can Help You After a Commercial Truck Accident
If a serious truck accident has changed your life, speak with one of our Cincinnati truck accident lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office. Our team is ready to lead your case and protect your interests through every step of the legal process. Call us at 513-488-1135 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Loveland, Ohio, we serve clients in Hamilton County, Fairfield, Norwood, and Forest Park.