Fatigued drivers are one of the leading reasons for both car accidents and trucking accidents across the country. Tired drivers are more likely to make poor choices, drift into other lanes, and make mistakes while driving. One of the biggest risks associated with fatigued drivers, however, is the danger of falling asleep at the wheel. When truck drivers, especially, fall asleep behind the wheel, they lose control of a multi-ton machine which can cause severe damage and serious injuries in an accident.
Drivers are most likely to fall asleep early in the morning and the middle of the afternoon, when most fatigue-related accidents tend to happen. Researchers have also found that drivers are more likely to fall asleep on long stretches of monotonous roads, such as on long highways. Unfortunately, truck drivers are often forced to work in conditions which contribute to fatigue-related accidents. That is, most truck drivers must drive early in the morning as well as the afternoon in order to make deadlines. As well, truck drivers are more likely than car drivers to spend long periods on highways – where most drivers fall asleep behind the wheel – because truck drivers are often responsible for transporting goods between states and cities, making highways and freeways the most effective mode of transport.
Research from Tatung University in Taiwan has shown that drivers who frequently break up their driving with rest are less likely to be in car accidents. Researchers found that drivers who drive 80 minutes with no break are more dangerous on the roads than drivers who drive for shorter distances. Unfortunately, the very nature of truck transport usually requires that truck drivers drive for longer periods than 80 minutes without stops.
Some research has also suggested that irregular schedules can experience higher levels of stress and subjective fatigue. Unfortunately, many truck drivers have irregular schedules in many cases, as trucking companies have differing orders to fill. All these factors – long hours on monotonous highways, irregular hours, and working during peak fatigue times – can make truck drivers more susceptible to driver fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found that about 52% of single-vehicle truck accidents were related to fatigue. In about 18% of these cases, the truck driver fell asleep while operating the truck. About 20% of commercial road transport accidents involve driver fatigue. About 50% of long haul drivers have admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel.
When a truck driver falls asleep behind the wheel, he or she is more likely to run off the road. The driver is also more likely to enter an oncoming lane and collide with oncoming vehicles. Finally, a driver who has fallen asleep at the wheel will not stop for other cars and is at a high risk of rear-ending the car in front of them. In many cases, other drivers on the road may not realize that a truck driver has fallen asleep behind the wheel and therefore may not take evasive measures until it is too late.
In many cases, long before truck drivers fall asleep at the wheel, they notice signs of excessive fatigue. Symptoms such as yawning, a drifting truck, heavy eyelids, fidgetiness, irritability, jumpiness, daydreaming, and increasing or decreasing speeds can be a sign of driver fatigue. When any driver notices these symptoms, he or she should pull over and get some rest before continuing. Stopping when tired can help prevent a truck accident or another serious accident that can lead to fatalities and serious personal injuries.