Drowsy Truck Drivers Pose a Significant Hazard
Many people worldwide have found themselves unable to sleep from time to time. You may have eaten something for dinner that kept you awake at night or experienced anxiety or worries about a test, job task, or important project that did not let you sleep the night before. Whatever the reason, every single person has felt the impact of not getting enough sleep by the next morning at least once or twice.
Most people will use a few cups of coffee to wake them up on their tired days, but you may put yourself or others in danger if you or another driver decides to get behind the wheel and drive a vehicle while feeling overly tired or exhausted. There is a reason why prescriptions and medicines say you cannot drive or operate a vehicle when the medicine causes drowsiness.
It is because your reflexes may be slower, and you may fall asleep behind the wheel, which can lead to a very dangerous situation. The consequences can be serious when an automobile driver falls asleep behind the wheel, but it can be much worse if the driver of an 18-wheeler or larger truck decides to drive and falls asleep. The risk of severe injuries or even death for the driver and everyone around the truck is very high.
If you or a loved one suffered an injury in a truck accident, be sure you speak with an experienced truck accident attorney about your case. You have the right to seek compensation for your injuries when they happen due to someone else’s negligence.
What Are the Signs of Drowsiness?
You may not always see the signs of fatigue in others, but these signs typically indicate a driver is too tired to drive safely:
Drifting off the road
Drifting into another lane
Moving to different sides of the road continuously
Inability to keep eyes open
Head continuously dropping
Missing exits and signs
Not in the best mood or irritable
Many other drivers already get nervous around truck drivers. So, it may alarm them even more if they see a semi-truck drifting off the road or moving into another lane. This may indicate that the trucker is having trouble controlling their truck, which means other vehicles are at risk for danger and need to get to a safer area on the road as soon as possible. When it is obvious that a truck driver has difficulty driving, other vehicles should remain as far away as possible from the truck.
Drowsy Truck Drivers Pose a Greater Threat When Driving
It is easy to understand that drowsy truck drivers pose a greater threat when driving. They pose a greater threat to themselves as well as to others who are on the road near them. This is because driving and controlling a large semi-truck is already difficult, and it becomes even more difficult when you are sleepy or tired. Truck accidents are known to cause a lot of damage, and the risk of these accidents increases when a trucker gets behind the wheel, feeling tired, drowsy, and less alert than normal.
Unfortunately, becoming tired on the job is almost normal for a truck driver. Truckers drive for long hours at a time because they must go long distances to deliver their loads. While on the road, they may also adopt poor sleeping habits or not get enough sleep. Everyone who has returned from vacation knows there is no better place to lay your head down at night than your bed, and truck drivers know and understand this statement better than anyone.
Many truck drivers sleep in the back of their trucks or a hotel every night on the road. They must learn to sleep anywhere at any time of the day, which can be extremely difficult for some people.
The following are a few effects that truck drivers may experience if they do not get enough sleep:
A cloudy mind
Depression or moody behaviors
Health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain, and more
Inability to focus
How Common Is Drowsiness Among Truck Drivers?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were over 90,000 injuries from truck accidents across the nation in 2021, and there were close to 6,000 fatalities in the same year. The FMCSA conducted a study on driver fatigue and found that around 13 percent of truck drivers were experiencing fatigue when their crashes occurred. Another study found that 17 percent had taken an over-the-counter drug, such as cold medicine, at the time of their crash, which is known to cause drowsiness.
The National Library of Medicine estimates that most truck drivers get less than five hours of sleep each night, which is significantly lower than the recommended amount of eight to nine. It is also not uncommon for a truck driver to feel tired around the clock. Sixty-four percent of truckers reported feeling fatigued regularly, and over 27 percent experienced insomnia.
Although truck drivers feel tired most of the day, about half of all truckers experience drowsiness and fatigue the most during the hours of midnight and 8 A.M, and almost 18 percent said they have fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once.
These statistics prove that drowsiness and fatigue among truckers are very common, making it a frightening situation that can have life-threatening risks for anyone driving on roads and highways at any time. Not only are the truck drivers’ lives at risk, but the FMCSA reported that 72 percent of individuals killed in truck accidents were those in other vehicles traveling close to the big rigs.
Reasons for Drowsiness Among Truck Drivers
There are many reasons why truckers are overly tired. Some are more common than others, and every case involving a wreck from a drowsy driver is unique. However, almost all truck-related accidents from a drowsy driver end the same: someone suffering serious or fatal injuries. There are a few factors known to cause drowsiness among truck drivers, including not much time off duty, too much time on the highway, violation of service hours requirements, medical issues, scheduling problems, and more.
Not much time off duty
Many truckers spend weeks, if not months, on the road. They may return home for one week or one weekend, and then it is time for them to get back on the road. When they are home, they may not get the proper rest because they are too busy spending time with their loved ones, dealing with house issues they missed while working, visiting the doctor, or having other necessary appointments that they can only do in person.
Too much time on the highway
It is a known fact that truck drivers drive on the highway most of the time. This does not require them to stop for stop signs or lights often, so they are constantly driving straight and not remaining alert. Driving long stretches at the same speed can cause the driver to go into hypnosis, which can cause drowsiness and tiredness and slow your reactions. This hypnosis worsens when it becomes dark because the body is naturally ready to sleep when night approaches.
Violation of service hours
Although the FMCSA has limits on how many hours truckers can drive and how many hours they need to be off duty, some truck drivers still feel pressured by employers and companies to skip their breaks or illegally drive to deliver their load by a certain time.
Driving for long periods eventually leads to medical problems. Some of the most common medical issues that truck drivers experience are body aches, back pain, blood pressure issues, diabetes, chronic fatigue, weight gain, and more.
Many truck drivers are on medications for health issues, stress, and depression. Some truck drivers may even depend on medications to stay awake while driving, which can lead to an inability to sleep at night. Other drivers may take sleeping pills to ensure that they sleep at night, making them feel tired and groggy the next day.
The federal regulations to ensure drivers get sufficient rest breaks do not always fit into a driver’s day at the right time. For example, drivers do not know how long it will take for a company to load or unload their truck, which means that it is difficult or nearly impossible to sleep during this time.
Has Anything Been Done to Help with Truck Driver Fatigue?
Throughout the past decade, the FMCSA has worked hard to advocate for regulations on the hours of service for truck drivers. The main factor behind this is safety, even though many truckers dislike the regulations because they want to finish their route and get back home.
Some of the newer regulations are:
The maximum number of hours a trucker can work is 70 hours
There must be a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of a trucker’s shift
A truck driver can work over 70 hours if they get 34 hours of rest, which includes two nights
Who Is Responsible if a Drowsy Truck Driver Is Involved in a Truck Accident?
Truckers are responsible for driving their trucks safely, carefully, and responsibly. As hard as it may be, this does include not driving while tired. When truck drivers experience fatigue and still get behind the wheel, they neglect their general duty of care. As a result, the trucker may be negligent if their drowsiness causes a wreck and injures people.
However, truck drivers are not always at fault. The company that employs the trucker may be negligent if it pressured the trucker or even encouraged them to violate federal regulations. Trucking companies can also be vicariously liable for the negligence of drivers, even if the company was not negligent itself.
There can also be maintenance issues, equipment defects, or design malfunctions. If any of these are a factor in the case, those responsible for loading or maintaining the truck and manufacturing companies should be accountable for the accident.
Lastly, truck drivers encounter various road conditions that can contribute to accidents. For example, a traffic sign or signal may be missing from the road, or it may not be visible to the driver. When this happens, a local, state, or city government is usually liable for these accidents. Other road defects that can cause truck accidents include missing guardrails, large potholes, debris on the roads, and much more.
A Truck Accident Attorney Will Guide You in The Right Direction
It is a known fact that truck drivers are often tired. Therefore, it is easy to blame them for every accident, but there must be evidence showing that it is indeed the trucker’s fault. An experienced truck accident lawyer will look at police reports, photos, video footage, medical records, and witness statements before deciding if you have a viable case against a truck driver.
If you do, they will prepare to stand up for your rights and ensure that you receive the proper compensation for your injuries, medical bills, missed wages, and other expenses.
Trucking companies and insurance companies fight against liability. Even when it is clear a driver fell asleep and caused a crash, they might try to pay you much less than you deserve for your injuries and losses. You need a legal advocate to stand up to these parties and demonstrate what you deserve as the victim of a drowsy truck driver.
Speak With a Truck Accident Attorney Right Away
Have you or someone you know been involved in a truck accident and believe that drowsiness or fatigue was a factor?
Call an experienced truck accident or personal injury attorney today to investigate your claim. These professional lawyers have spent their careers assisting victims and their loved ones who were in these accidents and will ensure that you receive justice for the pain, suffering, and losses your truck accident caused.