If there’s one issue that stirs controversy in the commercial trucking industry, it’s whether or not truck drivers get enough sleep. Studies have shown that a truck driver’s lack of sleep contribute to accidents on the highway. At the same time, truckers and trucking companies contend that reducing hours on the road cut’s a trucker’s pay and increases costs for trucking companies. In South Carolina, for example, statistics show 10% of the state’s fatality crashes involve large trucks. One Columbia truck accident attorney says ”sleepy drivers alone with jackknifing and breaking problems make up the main causes of a trucking accident.”
The problem came to the forefront once again after new federal regulations took effect in October. The law, in part, allows truckers to drive up to 11 hours of a 14-hour shift. Drivers are required to rest between 9-12 continuous hours each day before starting their shift. To make sure that trucker’s are following the new rules, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) plans to check truckers’ work logs. Failure to follow the new regulations will cost trucking companies a maximum of $11,000 in fines for each offense, and $2,750 for individual truckers.
Lack of sleep impacts driving
Studies show, and truckers confirm, that driver fatigue is a problem for truckers. Because of their lack of sleep, truckers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel. According to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 13 percent of truckers were considered to have driver fatigue at the time of a crash.
A FMCSA study showed that truckers’ alertness is related to the time of day they are on the road. Therefore, it stands to reason that truckers are less alert after midnight.
Another factor contributing to fatigue is sleep apnea, a disorder that causes an interruption in a person’s breathing and disrupts a person’s sleep patterns. As a result, a person may be drowsy in the daytime, and have trouble with concentration and memorization. In some instances, a person can experience depression.
The recently enacted federal legislation gives the FMCSA the authority to advise doctors to require truck drivers with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or more to take an overnight sleep examination. This requirement stems from concerns of researchers and transportation authorities that some truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea which can affect their driving.
It all hinges on sleep
Driver fatigue poses a danger to all motorists on the road, but large trucks have a greater impact when involved in crashes on the highway. A FMCSA study showed that there were 3,608 fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2011, a 3 percent increase over 2010. The study found that passenger car drivers were at fault more often than truckers. However, that does not prevent truckers and trucking companies from having to deal with lawsuits from injured motorists or survivors of motorists who died in the crash.
While some truckers and trucking companies complain about the new regulations, federal regulators and some trucking industry authorities say it’s all about safety and truckers’ health, which can improve with the proper amount of sleep. The more sleep, they say, the less danger of truck-related accidents.
Former journalist Nicole Bailey-Covin has been on the scene of a number of serious truck accidents. From a safety and health perspective, it’s clear that truck drivers must receive the proper amount of rest before attempting to move a big load. Concerns about productivity and product shipment simply can not out weigh the life and death issues of sleeping behind the wheel. For more information on legal rights try searching online terms like Columbia truck accident attorney or legal resources in your locale.