Truck drivers often face long days behind the wheel, making sure the goods they transport arrive on time. However, when a truck driver becomes fatigued while driving that can lead to a devastating accident. In fact, drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.
Drowsy driving compared to drunk driving
Driving while fatigued causes slowed reaction times, just as driving while drunk does. Drowsing driving can impact a driver’s vision and judgement.
According to the Sleep Foundation, if a truck driver has been awake for more than 18 hours, that drowsy driver can drive as if they have a blood alcohol level of .05. If that truck driver has been awake 24 hours straight, the fatigued driver can drive as if they have a .10 blood alcohol level. Drowsy truck drivers also are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel. If they do, they may not brake before colliding into a vehicle, bringing up to 80,000 pounds of force going at up to 65 miles per hour into a crash.
Reducing fatigue among truck drivers
When evaluating the causes of truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cited driver fatigue as the top cause of truck crashes. Because truck driver fatigue is so common, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now limits how long drivers can be on duty. They can drive only 11 hours at a time or 14 hours over a 24-hour period.
Still, even meeting those requirements doesn’t mean a truck driver won’t drive while fatigued. Truck drivers can face fatigue because of:
- Health problems (diabetes, obesity or lack of exercise)
- The monotony of the job
What to do about driver fatigue
If you are a truck driver and want to avoid fatigue, you can:
- Re-evaluate your sleep schedule to make sure you get at least six hours of sleep at a time and experiment with getting more sleep at night.
- Take a short break to refresh yourself.
- Eat healthier.
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption.
- Stay hydrated to avoid getting headaches.
- Pay attention to your environment and other factors, such as back pain that can cause more fatigue.
Passenger vehicle drivers who notice a truck swerving or a driver who is nodding off at the wheel should report the vehicle to police. Passenger vehicle drivers also should avoid driving beyond 11 hours at a stretch to avoid driving while drowsy.
Reducing the number of fatigued truck drivers and passenger vehicle drivers will help avoid serious accidents, allowing more people to arrive at their destinations safely.