The Dangerous Effects of Truck Driver Fatigue: When They’re Tired, You Suffer
It may come as no surprise to you that fatigue can greatly affect the quality of your work. Think about it: how often have you gone into the office and realized that the mediocre work you had accomplished on the previous day was due to exhaustion? How many times have you had to stop or redo a task because you were too tired to complete it properly?
Don’t worry; it’s understandable. Fatigue and restlessness can have strong physical and psychological effects on your body, not only causing sluggishness but also a limited attention span and lack of motivation.
Although you may be aware of these effects as they’re happening, in some cases you’re still forced to push through them, even though your body is in opposition. Depending on your job, the consequences of “pushing through” may be minor. However, for those whose jobs require them to be alert and focused at all times—doctors, police officers, drivers, etc.—the consequences of “pushing through” can be life-altering. This is especially true for professional truck drivers, as they’re routinely encouraged to drive on little rest.
Under Pressure: Why Truckers Ignore Signs of Fatigue
Truck drivers are on tight deadlines and are often encouraged to drive as far as possible before taking a break. Truck companies set unrealistic deadlines that their drivers feel obligated to make, despite unforeseen delays such as traffic jams, poor weather, or construction. This pressure pushes them to drive long distances—1,200 miles or more—in one stretch, even when they’re exhausted.
Federal hours of service (HOS) regulations are in place to limit the number of hours a trucker can remain driving without significant rest. Unfortunately, many truckers choose to violate these rules in order to:
- Beat deadlines. By driving through their breaks, truckers can build their reputations for being “fast and efficient” drivers. Unfortunately, their misguided initiative to do well is what puts you and your family in danger of a serious truck accident.
- Make more money. Many commercial vehicle drivers are paid by the mile. The more miles logged in a single day often means more money in their pockets.
- Increase company profit. Commercial trucking companies may encourage their drivers to rush their deliveries or to flout federal regulations in order to increase their own profits. On-time deliveries increase the likelihood of repeat business, and early deliveries mean the driver and truck can be put back on the road sooner.
When a trucker forces himself to stay awake for 24, 48, or even 72 hours in a row, his body will eventually rebel at his decision to stay awake. The body will begin to shut down on its own, causing micro-sleeps (30 seconds to two minutes of unconsciousness), hallucinations, cognitive disruption, mobility issues, and changes in blood pressure and breathing.
As you can imagine, when truck drivers are forced to drive under these conditions, their driving performance begins to deteriorate, and the risk of a serious accident increases as a result of the following:
- Declining awareness of surroundings
- Compromised judgment
- Loss of the ability to pay attention
- Increased reaction times; the driver can no longer promptly identify and react to potentially dangerous situations
- Changes in mood
- Lapses in memory and thought
- Impaired performance. Drivers awake after 17 continuous hours perform as if they have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.05. A driver’s performance after 24 hours awake reflect a BAC of 0.10—which is over the legal limit for alcohol impairment
By denying their bodies what they need, truckers not only put their own health at risk, but they alter their ability to control their actions (and their rigs), placing the lives of the people around them in jeopardy.
Liability Consequences of Violating HOS Regulations
Truck accidents involving a commercial vehicle need to be investigated for possible violations of the HOS rules. This investigation will determine whether the trucker and his trucking company allowed sufficient breaks and rest periods. If the inquiry shows possible discrepancies or infractions, the driver, the truck company and the recipient of the truck’s cargo may be held liable for the accident.
If you have been hurt in an accident that involves a big rig, consult with an experienced lawyer who can assess all aspects of your case to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Attorney Steve Lee has been helping Texas accident victims for more than 38 years. Call today at 713-921-4171 or 800-232-3711 to set up your free consultation.
You shouldn’t lose sleep because of a truck driver’s poor decision to try and stay awake. Allow us to help put your concerns to bed by helping you file an injury claim.