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How Driver Fatigue Can Lead to Truck Accidents

Posted on August 17, 2021 Truck Accidents
Most drivers know that they should not drive tired. Yet many do not realize that they are too drowsy to drive until it’s too late. Other drivers, such as truck drivers, may be under tight deadlines and working under pressure from their bosses to keep driving despite fatigue. It is extremely dangerous for anyone to drive a motor vehicle while drowsy – especially when operating a large truck. Driver Fatigue Can Lead to Truck Accidents

Why Is Truck Driver Fatigue Such a Big Problem?

More and more drivers of all types are guilty of driving while fatigued due to busy schedules and a culture of hyper-productivity. Commercial truck drivers, however, are even more likely to drive tired than passenger vehicle drivers due to a range of risk factors related to their jobs. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that 13 percent of commercial drivers were fatigued at the time of their accidents. A truck driver can experience fatigue because of:
  • Strenuous work activities
  • Pressure to meet a deadline
  • Violated hours-of-service regulations
  • A lack of adequate sleep
  • Odd sleeping schedules
  • Overnight drives
  • Driving alone/boredom
  • Caffeine or sugar crashes
  • Health problems such as sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition that can interrupt a good night’s sleep with respiratory issues. Truck drivers are at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea due to bad health habits, such as sitting sedentary all day, eating unhealthy foods at rest stops and smoking. One study found that 28 percent of truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea. Many cases are undiagnosed, meaning the driver may not realize that he or she has a higher risk of driving while fatigued due to interrupted sleep.

What Effects Does Fatigue Have on Driving a Large Truck?

Driver fatigue can lead to truck accidents by compromising the driver’s ability to safely and appropriately control a commercial truck. Commercial drivers must receive special training and licenses to operate big rigs. This is because large trucks are more difficult to control than smaller and lighter passenger cars. They require special braking and handling techniques. If a truck driver is fatigued, it can interfere with his or her ability to drive through three main effects:
  • Physical. Fatigue can take a physical toll on a truck driver. It can cause blurred vision, frequent yawning, muscle weakness, lack of coordination and diminished reflexes. Operating a large truck is a very physical activity. If fatigue causes physical problems, the driver may lose control of the truck.
  • Cognitive. Tiredness also has a cognitive impact on a truck driver. Trying to drive through fatigue can come with hazards such as reduced reaction times, impaired judgment, confusion or disorientation, drifting off, daydreaming, or brain fog. Being unable to dedicate 100 percent of the driver’s attention to the road increases the risk of a truck accident.
  • Emotional. A truck driver who is overtired or exhausted may experience emotional changes, such as increased irritation and susceptibility to road rage. A tired truck driver may be more likely to drive aggressively, tailgate, speed or have an emotional breakdown while driving.
The effects of truck driver fatigue are similar to drug or alcohol intoxication. Driving while tired increases the risk of a truck driver behaving carelessly or recklessly behind the wheel, as well as the driver being unable to react quickly enough to prevent a collision. This is why it is important for truck drivers to follow all the rules and take the necessary precautions to avoid fatigue at work.

What Are the FMCSA’s Hours-of-service Regulations?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, is the entity in charge of regulating the commercial trucking industry in the United States. In an attempt to mitigate the risks posed by truck driver drowsiness and fatigue, the FMCSA enforces hours-of-service restrictions. These rules dictate how long a truck driver can lawfully drive without taking a rest or meal break. In general, no truck driver can drive past 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty or 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty.

Why Does Truck Driver Fatigue Happen?

Despite having laws in place to try to prevent truck driver fatigue, many truck accidents take place every year that involve tired truck drivers. This is because there are elements unique to the trucking industry that are conducive to sleep deprivation, exhaustion, stress and burnout. Many risk factors inherent to long-haul trucking increase the risk of truck driver fatigue, including:
  • Sleep apnea and other health conditions that interrupt sleep
  • Reversed sleep schedules and overnight drives
  • Having to sleep at strange times and locations
  • Broken hours-of-service regulations
  • Extended hours driving alone
  • Energy crashes from caffeine or sugar
  • Physical or mental exertion at work
  • Unreasonable expectations or pressure from employers.
Sleep apnea is one of the main problems behind truck driver fatigue. This is a condition that can interrupt a good night’s sleep, making a truck driver more tired during waking hours. According to the FMCSA, truck drivers are susceptible to sleep apnea due to risk factors such as being overweight or obese, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, strange sleep patterns, and smoking.

Signs of a Drowsy Truck Driver

As you navigate the roads in Dallas, always keep an eye out for negligent drivers – especially behind the wheel of a dangerous big rig. You may be near a drowsy truck driver if you notice the truck doing any of the following:
  • Weaving in and out of multiple lanes
  • Making unsafe lane changes
  • Swerving
  • Crossing a highway to make an exit
  • Drifting out of a lane or hitting the rumble strip
  • Driving erratically
  • Stopping and starting
  • Slamming on the brakes
  • Speeding
  • Running a red light or stop sign
Keep a safe distance from the truck if any of these signs are present. Call 911 to report a potential drowsy or intoxicated truck driver. If you can, make note of the trucking company name and truck number so that you can report the driver to the company, as well.

What to Do if a Drowsy Driver Caused Your Truck Accident

If you believe that the truck driver involved in your truck accident in Dallas was fatigued and that this is why the collision took place, consult with an attorney for a professional opinion. A truck accident lawyer in Dallas can carefully investigate your accident and search for signs of truck driver fatigue, such as violated federal regulations or a medical diagnosis of sleep apnea. Then, your lawyer can help you go up against the truck driver and/or trucking company in pursuit of fair financial compensation for your losses.