Fatigue & Trucking Crashes in Georgia
May 28, 2019
For more than 45 years, the Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities program at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has compiled statistics about injuries, illnesses and fatalities on the job in the U.S. According to a recent survey of the last 25 years of data, U.S. workers are getting injured less and... continue reading
At one time or another, the majority of us have been driving our vehicles and suddenly come to the realization that we don’t remember the last few miles. Driving, especially on monotonous highways, can cause even the sharpest driver to lapse into a sort of hypnotic trance. The situation becomes even more dangerous when a driver is tired. It can happen to any of us, but when that driver is operating a large commercial truck, the consequences can be deadly. Because a sleepy driver is less likely to take evasive actions like braking or swerving, tired drivers are more likely to crash head-on or at high speeds. Truck driver fatigue is such a problem that there are numerous federal and state laws aimed to regulate under what conditions a driver can work. Fatigued drivers have slowed reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations quickly.
In fact, few people are able to assess their fatigue level correctly and most are unaware when their actions are affected. When driving a heavy vehicle at highway speeds, any delay in reacting to a potentially dangerous situation can be disastrous.Accidents that involve a large truck are highly likely to result in serious injury or death to the occupants of any passenger cars due to the sheer size and weight of an average truck. While a typical automobile weighs less than 3,500 pounds, a typical truck that’s fully loaded can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Additionally, a truck may be hauling hazardous or flammable materials, which automatically adds a level of danger simply by the nature of the truck’s load. It takes a skilled driver to handle a tractor trailer, but no amount of skill can overcome a person’s biological need for sleep.
As Bad As Drinking?Fatigue can affect any driver at any time and is known to contribute as much to accidents as speed and alcohol. Estimates suggest fatigue is a factor in up to 30 percent of fatal crashes and within the trucking industry, fatigue is thought to contribute to approximately 25 percent of insurance losses. Because there is no test for identifying whether driver fatigue contributed to a crash (unlike tests for alcohol or drugs), it is very likely that the role of fatigue in accidents is statistically underrepresented.
Contributing Risk Factors
The demands of a transport industry job often interfere with opportunities for normal rest. Truck driving typically includes working long hours, prolonged night work, working irregular hours, little or poor quality sleep, and early start times. Misaligned internal body clock physiology and the required work-rest schedule invariably leads to impaired performance. Even drivers who follow the rules may not get enough rest on their days off and may return to work just as tired as those drivers who are coming off time on the road. The trucking industry has begun offering fatigue management training aimed at providing truckers with some skills essential to effectively managing their own personal fatigue, improving awareness, and understanding the importance of sleep health.
Tight schedules, financial incentives, financial need, traffic jams, and bad weather can cause some truck drivers to keep driving despite being exhausted. Recognizing this, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised the hours-of-service (HOS) safety requirements for commercial truck drivers in an attempt to limit working hours. The rules restrict the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours (down from a maximum of 82 hours) to ensure that all truck operators have adequate rest. They can resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two off-duty periods between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours can be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves can face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.