When it comes to commercial truck drivers, the fight against fatigue and drowsiness are real. However, the structure and nature of the trucking industry push many drivers to work past their physical limits. This clearly puts them as well as others in danger.
Usually, drowsy driving leads to many accidents. Among these crashes, those involving commercial trucks and big rigs usually cause catastrophic injuries and even death. The commercial truck drivers are at a higher risk for drowsy driving than anyone else. They spend long hours on the road. Also, they are pressured by their employers into meeting strict deadlines most of the times. There are some companies that offer bonuses and incentives for truckers who deliver their loads ahead of schedule. This encourages them to continue driving even when they are extremely drowsy or fatigued.
What are the effects of Drowsy Driving?
Usually, heavy-lidded blinks, yawning, lane drifting, and missing exits are just a few of the dangerous side effects of driving while drowsy. Truck drivers can pose a significant danger if they’re driving while fatigued.
Usually, the body seldom functions without sleep for hours. Adults need to sleep for seven to eight hours every night. This is important to stay healthy and maintain regular reaction times. Due to lack of sleep, drivers can suffer from short-term memory loss; slowed reaction times; mood changes and an increase in aggressive behavior and difficulty processing information.
Why do most of the truck drivers do not get good sleep?
In the trucking industry, new regulations appear when accidents or trouble arise. However, the nature of trucking goes against many of the recommendations for good sleep. The goal to transport as many goods as possible in the shortest amount of time doesn’t focus on health. The safety of the drivers is also at stake, when on road. The proper sleep conditions, such as a consistent bedtime, comfortable mattress, cool temperatures, and quiet conditions can be almost impossible to find while out on the road. This is the reason why many drivers sleep in their cabs in a new location each night.
Regulations can be disregarded
Truck drivers have a 14-hour work period usually. They are allowed to drive for 11 hours. The other three hours are supposed to be used for periodic rest all day long. Drivers can take one 30-minute break. They can spend the remaining portion of the three hours as they want.
There are certain regulations to help limit the number of truck drivers on the road between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to help drivers maintain a more normal sleep cycle. This set of rules is meant to provide better sleeping patterns. However, these rules can go against many common practices of the drivers, mainly those who find themselves pressured to meet tight deadlines.
There are some drivers who are paid by the mile. It is clear that the more miles they travel in a day, the more money they make. Others record and report their hours themselves. This leaves it up to the honesty of the driver whether or not to follow regulations.
Effects of drowsiness
Drowsiness usually is known to impair a driver’s judgment, reflexes and reaction times. At the time of falling asleep, drivers can swerve into cars and pedestrians in the other lane or go off the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has instituted hours of service schedule limiting truckers to 14 consecutive hours of driving. As per this law, a break in the first eight service hours is necessary. It requires truckers to take 10 off-duty hours prior to starting their next shift.
Why are truckers more susceptible to Drowsy Driving?
Any driver may be guilty of driving drowsy. However, truck drivers are pretty much more at risk. There are several factors such as long hours on the road, tight deadlines, and pressure from employers that pretty much contribute to drowsy driving. When a regular driver can pull off the road, a truck driver on a strict deadline can deliver cargo may not have this luxury. It is a common habit of truckers to push themselves past the breaking point. This is the main reason why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created hours of service schedule that all truck drivers must obey.
As per the hours of service rule, all commercial motor vehicle drivers who need to carry property cargo must have an 11-hour maximum driving limit. This is only after 10 consecutive hours of being off duty. A driver might not drive longer than 14 consecutive hours. The job pressures can make truckers ignore the hours of service rule and push themselves too hard to meet deadlines. Trucking companies might offer incentives such as bonuses for drivers who deliver cargo ahead of schedule. These practices clearly leave the trucker fatigued.
Impact of Drowsiness
Drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. In case of drunk or fatigued driving, the driver’s judgment, reaction time, and cognition are impaired. Sleepiness can slow a driver’s reflexes as well. This leads to a higher chance of collision. No one can determine the moment they fall asleep. A tired driver can easily doze off without realizing he is at risk.
When a driver has to steer suddenly to avoid a collision or hit the brakes, drowsiness might slow down these reactions to a dangerous point. Thus, it gets really difficult to pay attention to the road since the driver is highly focused only on staying awake. Most of the commercial drivers need to be aware of the risks of drowsy driving. They need to learn how to prevent this tragic mistake.
How to avoid fatigue while driving?
In order to avoid drowsy driving, try not to put a delivery deadline ahead of your personal wellbeing. If you feel tired, accept it and act on it! The smart thing to do is to pull over and sleep. Try to stick to industry-standard resting guidelines at all times.
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