The Dangers of Drowsy Driving in the Trucking Industry

Driving and fatigue are a dangerous combination. But when it comes to drivers of big rigs, the problem is even more serious. Commercial trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Because of their sheer size and weight, they are difficult to control. Stopping a truck or making a sudden maneuver requires more time and distance than with a passenger vehicle. A fatigued driver operating a truck spells increased danger to all drivers on the road.

Drowsy driving is responsible for up to 100,000 vehicle wrecks annually. In terms of big rig wrecks, the National Transportation Safety Board reports that 30-40% of all commercial wrecks are caused by driver fatigue. When there is a fatality collision between a big rig and passenger vehicle, 98% of the time the fatality will occur in the passenger vehicle.

To combat the issue of driver fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created Hours in Service rules. These rules apply to all commercial vehicles that meet certain weight and carriage specifications. Just a few of these new rules include:

  • All drivers are required to have 30-minute rest breaks for every 8 hours of driving.
  • Drivers are allowed an 14-hour work day, with a daily limit of 11 hours behind the wheel.
  • The maximum average work week for a truck driver is now 70 hours, instead of 82.

Truck drivers are under pressure to meet pick-up and delivery deadlines and stay on schedule. They often work very long hours on monotonous roadways. To make matters worse, unscrupulous trucking companies may even encourage this behavior, and turn a blind eye to incorrect driving logs.

In an effort to meet tight deadlines, some truck drivers will use over the counter stimulants and prescription drugs, as well as illegal drugs to stay awake. This of course, only makes matters worse. Rather than relieving fatigue, stimulants will often make matters worse.

Driver fatigue of course, isn’t the only cause of truck wrecks. These events can also caused by bad weather, traffic problems, unsafe roads and mechanical failures. Federal regulations attempt to address these issues. These regulations involve enforcing proper truck maintenance, safe vehicle operation, drug and alcohol testing, route testing and much more.

Truck drivers and the companies that employ them are always required to comply with state and federal regulations. The Institute of Highway Safety has found however, that long distance truck drivers often break these rules. In one study, 33% of truck drivers interviewed admitted to routinely violating these rules.

Driving in an exhausted state could be negligent. Drowsy driving causes truck wrecks and presents a danger to anyone on the road. If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking wreck, it is important to come speak with us. If the wreck was caused by the negligence of another, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries including lost wages, reimbursement of medical costs and pain and suffering.