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Drowsy Truck Drivers: What You Need to Know

Thu 15 Feb, 2024 / by / Truck Accidents

Drowsy driving can affect anyone, whether they are operating a car, a motorcycle, or a truck. Given the nature of trucking, however, drowsy driving is a common experience among truck drivers. Inadequate sleeping conditions, long hours on the road, and poor health can contribute to truck drivers feeling very tired. 

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study revealed that thirteen percent of commercial motor vehicles were deemed fatigued at the time of the crash. A study that was sponsored by the FMCSA revealed that 65% of trucking drivers stated that they sometimes or often feel drowsy while driving. An astonishing half of truck drivers admitted that they fell asleep while driving in the previous year of that study. 

Truck driver fatigue is an issue that can have serious consequences. The National Safety Council has asserted that driving while drowsy is equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration of .08. In other words, drowsiness can significantly impair a driver’s judgment. Combined with a large vehicle can that can result in serious injuries or death upon impact, drowsy truck driving can be perilous to anyone on the road. As trucking fatigue is likely to be a factor in a truck accident, it is important you and your truck accident attorney understand its frequent occurrence.

Why Truck Drivers Are More Fatigued 

Again, drowsy driving can happen to anyone who is behind the wheel. But it is incredibly common amongst truck drivers. Here are some of the reasons why that is.

Long Hours on the Road

Truck drivers typically don’t work from 9-5. Workers who work overnight or work irregular hours are more likely to be fatigued than those working a more traditional schedule. This can also contribute to something called “highway hypnosis,” a phenomenon where the monotony causes a driver to zone out. This may lead to drifting or inattention. To combat this, the truck driver might also try “tricks” to stay awake that could lead to further distraction, such as using electronic devices, blasting music, etc. 

Inadequate Sleep/Sleeping Conditions

A 2008 study revealed that truck drivers get 5 or fewer hours of sleep per day. As the CDC recommends 7-9 hours per day for adults, this is a major deficit. That deficit can lead to impaired judgment, which can be disastrous on the road. Additionally, sleeping conditions for truck drivers are not ideal. Often, the truck driver is sleeping in the truck, which is typically not very comfortable. Thus, quality and quantity of sleep can be impacted by this profession.

Poor sleep can also lead to poor health. Lack of sleep has been linked to several chronic diseases. In turn, having those chronic diseases can lead to poor sleep. 

The Pressure of the Job

Truck drivers are under immense pressure to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. As such, they might skip taking a much-needed break to get to their destination faster. Being a truck driver is stressful. This stress can also contribute to chronic diseases, which can cause poor quality sleep and fatigue. 

Aren’t There Rules That Prevent Drowsy Truck Driving?

In short, yes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration now has requirements for truck drivers. These rules were implemented so that drivers get adequate rest, helping to avoid accidents. The rules state that drivers need to take breaks. Some of the rules include taking a minimum of ten hours off between shifts, as well as taking a 30-minute break after eight consecutive hours of work. It also limits the hours per day, as well as days per week, that the individual can drive.

Of course, such regulations are not foolproof. Truckers or truck companies may not abide by the regulations in order to get to the destination faster. Even if a truck driver is operating within the regulations, they could still get tired and ignore the signs of fatigue, getting into an accident while following the regulations. 

How Do I Prove that the Truck Driver Was Drowsy During the Accident?

This is where things can get challenging in a truck accident case. It is uncontroversial that drowsy driving causes accidents. The CDC states that drowsiness during sleep can lead to slow reaction time, poor decision-making, cause the driver to drift into other lanes, give tunnel vision, and increase forgetfulness. 

But proving fatigue is a whole different matter. There are tests to show that a person was under the influence of alcohol at the time of an accident. However, no such tests exist to show that a person was drowsy at the time of an accident. 

These are some of the different ways that you might be able to show driver fatigue:

Black Box Information

A truck’s black box is a device that records a lot of what goes on in the truck. Just like airplanes have a black box, a truck’s black box can provide information about what went wrong and caused the accident. Your attorney can request the data to see if there were any events like evasive movements or erratic braking, which can demonstrate that fatigue was an issue.

Hours-of-Service Logs

Your lawyer can get the electronic logging device data to see if the truck driver exceeded their hours. Truck drivers have to record when they report and when they end their driving period. You can use the truck’s GPS to then see if the logs are correct.

Witness Testimony

There may have been witnesses to the accident. They might be able to report that the truck driver looked groggy, was rubbing his eyes, or was nodding off while driving before the crash.

Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney Today

Truck driver fatigue is a major cause of truck accidents. If you were in an accident with a truck, there is a chance that fatigue played a role. This can be tricky to prove. An experienced truck accident attorney can gather evidence to reveal whether fatigue was a factor in your accident and use that evidence to get you the maximum recovery.