Fatigue refers to a lack of physical or mental energy. Fatigue or drowsiness can significantly affect a truck driver’s ability to safely operate and control a commercial truck. This can result in catastrophic truck accidents, with serious injuries and deaths. It is up to the truck driver and trucking company to take actionable steps to prevent driver fatigue. If either party fails in this regard, it can be held responsible for a crash victim’s life-changing losses.
How Does Fatigue Affect Truck Drivers?
Fatigue is highly dangerous for anyone operating a motor vehicle. Driving any type of vehicle requires mental alertness and clarity, quick reaction times, and at least some physical strength. This is especially true of operating a big rig, however, which has special issues and requirements that make it more difficult to drive than the average vehicle.
For example, large commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. They also use air brakes to stop. This means longer braking times compared to standard passenger cars. Tractor-trailers also have large blind spots and turn radiuses. These factors make it more important for a truck driver to be alert, vigilant and capable of reacting to changing roadway situations.
Fatigue has been compared to drunk driving by experts. The Sleep Foundation states that both drowsy driving and drunk driving interfere with reaction times, alertness and decision-making capabilities. When compared directly against each other, researchers found that both result in almost the same number of crashes.
After approximately 20 hours with no sleep, the effects of drowsiness on a driver’s reaction times, multitasking and hand-eye coordination are comparable to a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 percent – the legal limit in Arizona. Although many drivers don’t realize how dangerous drowsy driving is, these facts make it clear that sleep deprivation is a major crash risk.
Why Is Truck Driver Fatigue So Common?
Truck drivers are generally more inclined to drive while tired, drowsy or fatigued than standard motor vehicle operators. This is due to the fact that the occupation of driving an 18-wheeler comes with several job-related factors that can affect mental acuity and physical fitness. These include:
- Long hours on the road, often driving solo.
- Unusual sleeping schedules and overnight drives.
- Difficulty sleeping in sleeper berths, leading to sleep deprivation.
- Tight schedules and pressure from employers to meet deadlines.
- Undiagnosed medical conditions, such as sleep apnea.
- Other health problems that interfere with sleep.
- Unhealthy diet or lack of exercise causing low energy.
Extended work hours, a lack of stimulus on long drives, inadequate sleep and strenuous work activities all increase the risk of truck driver fatigue. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, around 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers in a single year were fatigued at the time of their accidents.
What Are Hours-of-Service Regulations?
Hours-of-service (HOS) regulations are federal laws enacted to help prevent truck driver fatigue. HOS enforce a maximum time limit for commercial drivers to be on the road at a time. They specify required rest and meal periods for truck drivers each shift. In general, a truck driver must take a rest break of at least 30 minutes for every 8 cumulative hours of driving time. In addition, no driver may drive for more than 14 hours in a day.
If a truck driver breaks the HOS rule, he or she is at a greater risk of driving while fatigued. If a tired truck driver gets into a truck accident, evidence of the broken federal HOS law can be used against the driver to prove that he or she is responsible. For assistance proving a case against a fatigued truck driver after a truck accident in Arizona, contact The Law Offices of John Phebus.