Approximately 500,000 accidents involving large trucks occur annually each year in the United States. While many factors can contribute to causing an accident, truck driver fatigue is one of the main concerns. Although regulations have been put in place to hold companies accountable for ensuring that drivers are well rested, truck driver fatigue continues to be cited as a factor in many tractor trailer accidents.
Truck Driver Fatigue Regulations
On July 1, 2013, new hours of service safety regulations went into effect on a federal level. These regulations require companies to limit trucker hours to 70 hours per week, whereas previous regulations had allowed truckers to work up to 82 hours per week. Truck drivers are also allowed to work no more than 14 hours a day, with time actually spent on the road limited to 11 hours per day. Trucking companies that do not adhere to these rules may face fines up to 11,000 dollars for each offense. Truckers may also face penalties for failing to abide by industry regulations.
Effects of Fatigue
Truck driver fatigue is very dangerous because it slows the driver’s reaction time, making it more difficult for drivers to respond appropriately to the many hazards that are presented each day on the road. Drivers also run the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel or making unsafe maneuvers when judgment is affected by fatigue. Tractor trailer accidents cause much more damage than other motor vehicle accidents because of the weight and size of the vehicles. Excessive damage or harm can also be caused by dangerous cargo, such as toxic chemicals.
Continuing Fatigue Concerns
Despite the risks that trucker fatigue presents, many companies and truckers continue to allow longer hours than regulations dictate. Pressing deadlines threaten company revenues, and many truckers are willing to bend the rules to obtain overtime pay and appear highly productive. Trucker daily logs may be filled in with false information in order to avoid penalties. This type of falsification allows trucker fatigue issues to remain a major safety concern, and makes the problem more difficult to solve due to a lack of accurate information.
Trucker Rest Periods
How truckers spend the time off-duty also has a tremendous impact on trucker fatigue. Many truckers spend little off-duty time actually sleeping, especially if there is a short window for rest in between shifts. This is a complication that is not easily addressed with further regulation, but may call for innovation on the part of trucking companies and truckers.