Sleep deprivation is a major cause of commercial trucking accidents. Being sleepy behind a wheel is always dangerous. It slows response times and can cause a driver to fall asleep on the job. For truck drivers, the situation is even more dangerous. Due to their size, trucks can cause a lot more damage in a collision. Trucks also require longer response times to brake or swerve. A sleepy truck driver can cause serious pedestrian accidents, car accidents, and damage.
Unfortunately, the very life of a commercial truck driver can encourage poor sleep. Truck drivers spend a long time sitting down. Little air and exercise can impede a restful sleep. In addition, truck drivers often work odd hours. This can interrupt a body’s natural rhythm and make it harder to sleep well. Finally, some drivers drive too far and too long and therefore become drowsy on the job.
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) has implemented rules about “hours of service.” These rules aim to prevent how long big rig drivers, commercial truck drivers and semi drivers can drive before they have to rest. The rules permit drivers to have 14 hour work shifts. In each shift, drivers can drive for a total of 11 hours. After these 11 hours, drivers are supposed to have 10 hours off duty.
In addition, the rules stipulate that drivers must drive no more than 60 hours in a 7-day period or 70 hours in an 8-day period. Once a driver has had 34 consecutive hours off-duty, this period of time is reset. These rules are designed to ensure that drivers get adequate rest and do not drive longer than scientifically safe.
However, many non-profit groups believe that these rules do not go far enough in keeping sleepy truck drivers off the streets. Groups such as the Truck Safety Coalition, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters note that the FMCSA rules do not ensure enough rest and do not address the issue that drivers are often given financial incentives by trucking companies to violate such rules.
Many groups claim that trucks should have black boxes that prevent trucks from running if they have been driving too many hours. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, more than100,000 accidents each year are caused by sleep deprivation. Groups note that drivers and companies who violate hours of service rules should be held liable.