Trucking often demands little opportunity for rest due to long irregular work hours, early start times and night shifts, often sacrificing good, quality sleep. Fatigue refers to lack of sleep, extreme tiredness, or exhaustion. Fatigue can play a major role in driving accidents, especially to truck drivers who are on the road for a long period of time. Not receiving the vital quantity of sleep, loading and unloading heavy loads, overtime at work and the stress of meeting deadlines can all be contributors to it.
Truck driver fatigue is acknowledged as a contributor to road crashes, and can strike even the most experienced drivers at any time and place. Drivers experiencing fatigue have slower reflexes and reduced ability to evaluate circumstances quickly.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 750 people die and 20,000 more are injured each year due directly to fatigued commercial vehicle drivers. In 2013, 4,186 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a 3-percent increase from the previous year.
Truck drivers usually work for about 16-18 hours a day, driving for 12-14 hours on each shift leaving them extremely tired. Due to the rising number of accidents related to truck driver fatigue, the government published a new Hours of Service Final Rule for Truck Drivers:
- The final rule stated an 11-hour day by day driving limit.
- The Hours of Service final rule binds a driver’s work week to 60 hours after seven successive days and 70 hours after eight successive days.
- Truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a 30-minute break.
- Truck drivers were entailed to take no less than two nights rest. This break condition is part of a 34-hour restart stipulation that if a truck driver takes two and a half days off from work at any particular time, the driver can then start their work week at zero hours. The final rule permitted drivers to use the restart provision only once through a period of seven days.
In a study by the American Transportation Research Institute, it found out that the restart rule has had a negative effect on safety. “After many years of crash decreases, everyone knows our industry has experienced an uptick in crashes,” said Dean Newell, Vice President, Safety of Maverick USA, Inc. and a member of ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee in a press release. “This latest analysis from ATRI validates both changes in operations and crash risk that seems to be associated with the restart rule. Regulations should serve to improve safety, not create additional safety risks.” The rule has since been suspended since December 2014.
In order to reduce fatigue, the FCSMA recommends following these tips:
- Get enough sleep before driving. “Driver drowsiness may impair a driver’s response time to potential hazards, increasing the chances of being in a crash,” says the FCSMA.
- Have a healthy diet. Not eating enough, at the right time or skipping meals can be a factor for driver fatigue or food cravings.
- Take a nap from ten to forty-five minutes if feeling drowsy.
- Do not take medication that can cause drowsiness. Make sure to check labels of medications before taking them since almost 17% of commercial motor vehicle crashes indicate that the drivers took over the counter medication.
- Know the signs and symptoms of fatigue. Prevention is the key!
- Don’t try any alertness tricks like opening the window or turning up the radio since they cannot prevent fatigue.
Always take road safety and driver health into consideration everyday while out on the road. Preventing truck driver fatigue can save many people, including the driver from life threatening accidents and crashes.
About the author:
Muddassir Katchi has been with 360training.com since 2012 and is the Product Line Manager for OSHAcampus.com. Being an Engineer by profession and an expert of Power, Industrial and Engineering space, Muddassir has contributed significantly towards these industries. He has been responsible for the release of NERC approved – quality courses, meeting the current compliance standards and fulfilling the regulatory requirements. Muddassir has vast experience of working with NERC, FERC and other state regulatory agencies. He is involved in the management of the education programs, production, monitoring and strategic planning – quarterly and yearly to provide quality education to individuals or institutions looking for best ways to develop their skills in the said industries.