Truck driver fatigue continues to be a major cause of trucking accidents. Even though truck drivers are strictly regulated in terms of rest time and maximum number of hours on the road between rests, trucking is still a stressful job and some companies pressure truck drivers to ignore rules. As well, long hours on the road are draining, even with frequent breaks for rest. In some cases, insomnia, sleep apnea, or other conditions or illnesses make a driver tired – and dangerous – on the road. There are many things that drivers can do, however, to reduce accidents due to fatigue:
1) Take breaks when needed. Although breaks are regulated in the trucking industry, truck drivers can stop any time they wish on the road – as long as they rest the minimum amount prescribed by regulations. Many truck drivers push on until the next stop or rest, even if they are tired. Resting when needed – even for a few minutes – can prevent accidents and the personal injuries they cause, though.
2) Get regular check ups. If an office worker falls asleep at his or her desk due to an illness, his or her pride may be a little hurt. If a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel, the consequences are far more dire. Trucking accidents have a high rate of fatalities and also often lead to brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations, and other serious injuries for survivors. Regular doctor’s visits can ensure that no conditions or illnesses are creating a hazard on the road.
3) Eat well. Heavy foods – especially starchy foods and carbohydrates — can induce a state of sleepiness. Big, heavy meals traditionally make us feel tired. Few people, for example, feel at their best or most alert after a big Thanksgiving dinner. Eating smaller portions of healthful foods promotes good health and can help prevent fatigue.
4) Use extra caution during dangerous trips. Driving early in the morning and late at night is more dangerous than driving during the day, since our bodies are naturally more tired and drowsy at these times. Unfortunately, truck drivers often have to drive during these times in order to meet deadlines. Being extra careful and aware of the dangers of sleepiness at these times can be helpful.
5) Avoid controlled substances while driving. Obviously, any amount of alcohol must be avoided when driving. Even one drink – even if it does not put a driver over the blood alcohol limit – can create feelings of sleepiness. However, even over-the-counter medications can create drowsiness, which is why it is important to read labels. Even smoking can be a problem, as it can affect night vision.
6) Create alert conditions. Drivers can open windows for fresh air or use air conditioning to create a cool atmosphere. Most people are less sleepy in a cool atmosphere than in a warm one. As well, playing lively music and sitting up straight may help prevent drowsiness.