Helping Truck Drivers Manage Driver Fatigue

Tired truck driver

Truck drivers work long hours, face strenuous deadlines and often have rigorous schedules. Is it any wonder that one of the leading causes for truck driving accidents is due to driver fatigue?

Impacts of Driver Fatigue

“Long work hours, without sufficient recovery time, lead to reduced sleep and chronic fatigue. That fatigue leads drivers to have slower reaction times and a reduced ability to assess situations quickly. One of the most dangerous elements of fatigue is how quickly it can sneak up on vehicle operators, be they car or truck drivers. Truck drivers (like most people) often can’t assess their own fatigue levels accurately and are therefore unaware that their performance has degraded. Too often, fatigued drivers fail to notice that they are drifting between lanes.” [Source: FMCSA]

Nearly 4,000 people die in large truck crashes every year and driver fatigue is a leading factor.

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Tips to Manage Driver Fatigue

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put together the following list of tips and facts to help drivers understand and better manage fatigue.

  • Get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel. Being drowsy behind the wheel can impair your response time, making it more likely you could be involved in an accident.

Did You Know: A study by the FMCSA found that driver alertness was related to “time-of-day” more so than “time-on-task.” Most people are less alert at night, especially after midnight. This drowsiness may be enhanced if you have been on the road for an extended period.

  • Eat Healthy. Eat Regularly.

Did You Know: A recent study conducted on the sleeping and driving habits of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers concluded that an unhealthy lifestyle, long working hours, and sleeping problems were the main causes of drivers falling asleep while driving.

  • Take Naps.

Did You Know: Naps aimed at preventing drowsiness are generally more effective in maintaining a driver’s performance than naps taken when a person is already drowsy.

  • Pay Attention to Medication Warning Labels. Don’t drive after taking any medications that may make you drowsy.

Did You Know: Cold pills are one of the most common medicines that may make you drowsy. If you must drive with a cold, it is safer to suffer from the cold than drive under the effects of the medicine.

  • Be Sure You Know the Signs of Drowsiness. Signs include frequent yawning, heavy eyes, and blurred vision.

Did You Know: Research has indicated that being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent, which is legally intoxicated and leaves you at equal risk for a crash.

  • Do NOT Rely on “Alertness” Tricks to Keep You Awake. Alertness tricks are things like turning up the radio, drinking coffee, and opening the window. These offer a false sense of alertness and don’t last very long.

Did You Know: It takes several minutes for caffeine to get into your system and deliver the energy boost you need. If you are tired when you first drink a caffeinated drink, it may not take effect as quickly as you expect, and, if you are a regular caffeine drinker, the effect might be much smaller.

Driver Fatigue Rules from FMCSA

Because of the number of fatigue-related accidents, the FMCSA made changes to the rules regarding truck driver fatigue.

The new rules, effective July 1, 2013, limit truck drivers’ average work week to 70 hours to ensure that all drivers have adequate rest. The FMCSA estimates that these safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.

Hours of Service Final Rule
Interstate Truck Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service

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