Tips for Truck Drivers to Combat Fatigue

Strong Tie Insurance November 26, 2020 Commercial Truck Insurance

Truck driver fatigue is a serious concern for both drivers and the trucking companies that hire them. Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has attempted to reduce driver fatigue and the accidents that ensue, there are still truck crashes occurring because drivers fall asleep behind the wheel. While insurance for commercial trucks is on the rise due to the increase in lawsuits, companies can still find insurance with reasonable rates that protect both drivers and companies alike.

Let’s take a look at what driver fatigue is, what causes it, and what truck drivers and their employers can do to help eradicate this dangerous driving condition.

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue is a mental or physical state of extreme exhaustion. Sometimes the fatigue is so severe that it affects both body and mind. A person experiencing fatigue will report feelings of weakness, low energy, and drowsiness.

The result is reduced reaction times, and the inability to maintain wakefulness and make quick decisions that driving sometimes demands.

What is Truck Driver Fatigue?

Unfortunately, truck driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents and fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 6,000 deaths every year are caused by driver fatigue.

According to the CDC, signs of driver fatigue include yawning, blinking frequently, missing an exit, drifting across lanes, hitting a rumble strip, and forgetting details about the last few miles just driven.

Commercial truck drivers are particularly vulnerable — one survey found that an astounding 34% of truck drivers admitted to having fallen asleep or nodded off while driving, and 24% reported a near-miss in the past seven days.

Why Truck Driver Fatigue Is So Dangerous

Truck driver fatigue leads to accidents. One study found that driver fatigue was responsible for 13% of commercial motor vehicle accidents.

Studies reveal that driving without getting adequate sleep can impair someone’s ability to drive in the same manner as drinking alcohol. In fact, being awake for 24 hours resulted in impaired driving equal to those that have a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.10% — .02% higher than the legal limit.

Because of their large cargo and weight that can exceed 80,000 pounds, the ramifications of accidents caused by fatigue grow exponentially when considering the massive size of big rigs and the damage they can do.

One fender-bender can result in disastrous consequences making comprehensive insurance for commercial trucks is a necessity.

Causes of Truck Drivers Fatigue

Due to strict scheduling and sometimes unreasonable deadlines, truck drivers are particularly prone to driver fatigue.

Despite the regulations aimed at reducing this common occurrence, truck drivers are still faced with irregular schedules that lead to an interrupted sleep cycle and fatigued driving.

Truck drivers are behind the wheel a set number of hours, as required by law, but those hours could be 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. These hours are less than ideal for the circadian rhythm, the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

Natural lulls within this cycle occur between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. and again from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. When drivers do not get enough sleep, these natural lulls can produce excessive drowsiness and decreased alertness.

A fatigued driver does not always pull off into a truck stop and take a quick nap. Instead, they turn to another cup of coffee and a sugary donut to help pull them through the next 100 miles. Unfortunately, this practice perpetuates an endless cycle of unhealthy living and greater fatigue.

When compared to the national working population, long-haul truck drivers were found to experience twice the rate of obesity.

Fatigue Management

Recommended trucker fatigue management found throughout many a website is often misleading. Rolling down the window and getting another cup of coffee only provide short bursts of energy that often lead to sudden drops.

What a fatigued body requires is sleep. Getting the right hours of sleep every night is crucial to creating a consistent sleep pattern. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the right amount is seven to nine hours every day.

When starting to feel drowsy, a quick nap is the best option. In fact, short naps have been found to be more effective than coffee at restoring energy levels. These can last anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, but require 15 minutes to wake up before truckers get behind the wheel.

After waking, the human body requires 15 minutes to really emerge from the sleep cycle. One study revealed that truck driver incidents are highest during the first hour of driving. This may be due to sleep inertia, or the impairment of one’s reaction time. The effects are particularly apparent for those truck drivers that sleep in the sleeper berth.

Trucker fatigue management, however, is about much more than restful sleep and an appropriate rest break. One’s lifestyle, including diet and exercise, plays a major role in a healthy and conscientious way of living. Maintain a healthy diet by opting for salads, grains, and fruit.

While difficult when one is on the road, today’s health-conscious consumer is increasing the demand and therefore the availability of healthy food options.

Fortunately, more, though certainly not all, fleets are understanding the need for a fatigue management approach that includes naps and rescheduled driver hauls due to exhaustion.

Anti-Fatigue Truck Driving Regulations

FMCSA set hours of service (HOS) rules in an attempt to reduce truck driver fatigue and limit the number of truck accidents.

These federal rules apply to all truckers who drive interstate commerce in the United States, while intrastate trucking is regulated by each state.

The HOS rules are as follows:

  • 14-Hour Driving Window

After 10 consecutive hours off duty, a truck driver is permitted 14 hours on-duty.

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit

Within these 14 hours, 11 hours may be relegated to driving.

  • 60/70-Hour Duty Limit

The weekly on-duty limit is as follows: 60 hours in seven consecutive days and 70 hours in eight days.

  • 30-Minute Rest Breaks

A truck driver must take a 30-minute break after driving for eight consecutive hours.

Cause of a Truck Accident

A law firm, accident lawyer, and insurance companies undertake a case evaluation when determining the cause of a commercial truck crash. A truck accident attorney may conclude or try to prove that the driver acted negligently if they operated their truck while drowsy or fatigued.

They may also go after the trucking company if they feel confident that they can prove the driver was pressured to continue his scheduled delivery despite his fatigue.

For this reason, and many more, commercial insurance should be regularly audited.

A truck accident attorney will review several records in an effort to determine the cause of an accident.

Looking at the Truck’s Records

When an accident occurs, a driver’s logbook is reviewed as well as an examination of the black box, or electronic data recorder.

Reviewing Other Records and Commercial Insurance

Other records used to determine if a driver was fatigued include tolls, gas, and hotel receipts; bills of lading, and surveillance cameras.

Accidents happen, whether due to fatigue, faulty traffic signals, or bad road conditions. Make sure you, as a driver or commercial truck company, carry the mandated insurance for commercial trucks.

For a no-obligation quote, contact us at Strong Tie Insurance today.