For any driver, fatigue is a killer. For truck operators, falling asleep at the wheel means mistakes and slower reaction times. A truck can jack-knife, roll, or merge into a car in an adjacent lane. In recent years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) took steps to reduce the number of truck drivers asleep at the wheel.
In Florida, there were 213 fatalities involving large trucks in 2011. Multiply that figure by 50 states and it does not take long to realize the United States has a real problem with accidents and the trucking industry. Most accidents, and tragic loss of life, can be avoided — especially if they have been caused by lack of sleep.
In July, new hours of service (HOS) rules went into effect to reduce trucking accidents caused by fatigue. The FMCSA estimates that 1400 truck collisions might be prevented if truckers take more breaks and drive fewer hours each week.
Given their irregular sleep schedules, commercial truck drivers are more prone to sleep apnea. While you do not need to be a truck driver to suffer from sleep apnea, for a truck driver it can make the difference between life and death.
Consider these points about fatigue and the trucking industry:
- According to an FMCSA study, almost one-third of commercial truck drivers suffer from sleep apnea
- Sleep apnea is a serious condition that causes breathing pauses during sleep, reduces oxygen circulating in the blood and causes internal organs to work harder.
- Sleep apnea increases daytime drowsiness, reduces reaction time and affects decision-making ability
- The FMCSA anticipates an increase in the health of truck drivers and a decrease in accident rates and fatigue because of the new HOS regulations.
Whatever type of vehicle you operate, do not drive fatigued. On the highway, stay safe by steering clear of big rigs. If you are involved in a truck accident in Jacksonville, Florida, talk to an experienced injury law firm.
Attorney Shane Herbert also contributed to this blog post.