According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an estimated 750 people are killed each year due to fatigued commercial drivers, and 20,000 more are injured in these crashes caused by tired truckers. Why is trucker fatigue such a significant issue, and what can we do to curb accidents caused by sleepy commercial drivers?
Despite increasing trucking regulations, workplace conditions for truckers are not ideal. Since truckers are paid by the mile instead of by the hour, commercial truckers are encouraged to find ways to driver longer hours and odd hours – two factors that greatly contribute to driver fatigue. Tight deadlines and demanding schedules exacerbate the issue. In addition, truck logbooks are easy to doctor and are often falsified. Even when commercial big-rig drivers follow all of the rules, the monotonous stretches on our interstates and highways can still lead to driver fatigue, road hypnosis, and falling asleep behind the wheel.
Last year, the FMCSA tightened commercial trucking regulations in an attempt to make the roads safer for everyone by reducing trucker fatigue. The changes stated that truckers could only drive 10 hours consecutively instead of 11 hours and that a 30-minute break was required every seven hours. The new law also requires a 34-hour break after truckers reach their weekly driving limit.
While these regulations are a good thing for traffic safety, it does not mean that there are no longer fatigued drivers on the road – truckers and trucking companies alike are finding loopholes in these laws or simply breaking them to increase profits.