- Crucial Statistics About Driving Fatigue
- Is Driver Fatigue For Truck Drivers A Big Concern?
- Common Misconceptions About Driver Fatigue
- Fatigue-Related Risks For Car Shipping Companies
- Other Dangers Of Driving Fatigued
- Factors Contributing To Driver Weariness
- Combatting Fatigue In The Transportation Industry
- Responsibilities Across The Industry
- Driver Fatigue Management Toolkit
- Driver Fatigue Resource Center
- Top Nine Ways To Reduce Driving Fatigue On The Road
Driving fatigue is a major problem for all drivers, but it’s particularly problematic for truckers who spend long hours on the road and must be alert to avoid accidents.
It is important to understand the severity of driving fatigue as well as some crucial facts about this condition in order to prepare and prevent it from happening.
Crucial Statistics About Driving Fatigue
According to the National Sleep Foundation, one in every three American adults is sleep deprived. This lack of rest leads to decreased productivity and performance across industries.
Trucking companies, for example, lose $1 billion per year due to driver fatigue, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The same report indicates that commercial vehicle operators suffer a loss of $2 million per day in productivity because of driver fatigue alone.
Additionally, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving contributes to more than half of fatal collisions.
According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, approximately 40% of drivers have admitted to dozing off behind the wheel.
In 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported 2,912 accidents involving semi-trucks that resulted in fatalities. Of those incidents, 65% involved either a driver or passenger being injured.
The impact of fatigue among drivers extends beyond the individual driver. Trucking companies incur additional costs related to driver safety and maintenance. They must pay overtime wages to ensure that drivers receive adequate rest. Companies also spend money on equipment and training to prevent fatigue from occurring in the first place.
Is Driver Fatigue for Truck Drivers a Big Concern?
Driving when fatigued is a common practice. A recent study found that the average American commercial truck driver drives about 12,500 miles per week and works up to 11 hours a day. This is an excessive amount of driving hours and more than twice what the federal government requires.
But it gets worse. In 2017, 23.8% of those trucks exceeded the federal limit of 10 hours of continuous work. That means they worked longer than allowed. This can be dangerous.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 30% of all motor vehicle crashes are attributed to weariness. These crashes result in an estimated 1,400 deaths each year.
Commercial drivers are more likely to experience driver fatigue for various reasons. These include long hours, overnight drives, and maneuvering heavy trucks.
Although the federal government limits the amount of time that drivers can work, many truckers and drivers disregard or go beyond the limits. This greatly increases the risk of fatigue-related incidents.
Common Misconceptions About Driver Fatigue
There are several myths surrounding driving fatigue. Many people believe that it is impossible to fall asleep behind the wheel. Some think they are immune to the effects of fatigue since they are already tired. Others assume that they can simply power through without problems.
Unfortunately, none of these assumptions hold true.
Not only is it possible to fall asleep while driving, but it is also much easier to do so when you're already exhausted. You might find yourself nodding off, even though you don't feel sleepy.
If you notice signs that you're beginning to become fatigued, pull over immediately. Otherwise, you risk crashing into something or someone.
Fatigued driving can lead to serious consequences, such as having an accident, getting pulled over by law enforcement, or causing injury to another person.
These events can occur regardless of whether or not you are impaired. The ultimate line is that no amount of indifference justifies endangering human lives.
Fatigue-Related Risks for Car Shipping Companies
Fatigue is listed among the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) 10 Most Wanted Issue Areas for 2019–2020.
As part of the NHTSA's efforts to address this issue, the agency recently announced that it is focusing on improving safety in commercial vehicles by targeting fatigue-related crashes.
The U.S. National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) also recognizes fatigue as a leading cause of fatal accidents involving large trucks. The NTSB estimates that fatigue contributes to about 20% of these types of crashes.
In addition to being unsafe, fatigued driving is expensive. It costs $1 billion annually in direct medical expenses alone. The indirect expenses, such as missed productivity, property damage, and other losses, are not included in this sum.
Long-haul truck drivers are particularly vulnerable to fatigue because they spend long periods away from home. They may have little opportunity to get enough rest before heading out again.
There are roughly three million truckers who must follow the hours-of-service regulations, including one million long-haul drivers. Long-haul truckers drive more than 500 miles per day, which means they often work 12-hour shifts.
Other Dangers of Driving Fatigued
In addition to the risks associated with falling asleep at the wheel, there are other dangers posed by driving fatigued. For example:
- Sleep deprivation can impair your ability to control a vehicle safely. This includes being able to react quickly enough to avoid collisions. It also includes being able to see clearly enough to spot potential hazards.
- Fatigued drivers may have difficulty maintaining safe distances from other vehicles. They may also have trouble judging how fast they need to go to maintain their speed.
- Fatigue can make it harder for drivers to handle emergencies. This includes responding appropriately if they encounter road conditions that require them to slow down or stop suddenly.
- Judgment errors are more likely to occur when someone is tired. This includes failing to pay attention to traffic signals, following too closely, and crossing lanes without signaling.
- Fatigue can contribute to unsafe lane changes. This includes changing lanes without checking blind spots or looking both ways before pulling out.
Factors Contributing to Driver Weariness
Several factors, such as the following, may contribute to driver weariness with automobile shipping companies:
- Lack of proper rest before starting a shift
- Working long hours without breaks
- Not taking enough time to eat properly
- Being exposed to extreme temperatures
- Spending too much time away from home
- Working in a noisy environment
- Working in uncomfortable conditions
Combatting Fatigue in the Transportation Industry
Fatigue is one of the most difficult challenges facing the transportation industry. This challenge stems from both biological and environmental factors.
For example, the human body's natural circadian rhythm causes us to become less aware of our surroundings at around noon and again in the early morning hours.
Unfortunately, these periods of low awareness often coincide with times when we are most likely to be behind the wheel.
The environment plays a role too. In addition to the natural light cycles that affect the circadian rhythm, many forms of artificial lighting used in vehicles can disrupt the body's internal clock, leading to drowsiness.
Fatigue science is about understanding why we feel tired and what we can do to avoid feeling exhausted while traveling. In fact, there are many ways to manage fatigue, including taking breaks, planning ahead, and knowing when to stop.
The problem is that people don't always realize how tired they are. To combat fatigue, car shipping companies must recognize the importance of proper scheduling, fewer duty hours, and break plans.
With proper planning, drivers can minimize the effects of fatigue and maximize their productivity.
Responsibilities Across the Industry
In response to the growing number of fatalities caused by fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) developed the Driver Fatigue Countermeasure Program.
This program provides resources and guidance to shippers, truck carriers, motor carrier operators, and others involved in the trucking industry.
The FMCSA's goal is to provide a safe work environment for drivers and passengers while reducing the risk of driver fatigue. The agency does this through several different programs, including the Driver Sleep Apnea Detection Project.
While the NHTSA focuses on improving vehicle design and technology to prevent accidents, the FMCSA works to improve driver behavior and practices. Their focus is on education, awareness, and best practices.
They also offer information about how to avoid fatigue and what to do if you feel fatigued while driving.
Driver fatigue management toolkit
The FMCSCA also offers a variety of resources for employers, including the Driver Fatigue Management Toolkit.
Employers can use this toolkit to educate employees about the effects of sleep deprivation, encourage healthy sleeping habits, and implement strategies to manage fatigue during the workday. The toolkit includes:
- A guide to understanding the impact of fatigue on your business
- Tips for developing a fatigue management plan
- An overview of the Driver Fatigue Countermeasures Program
- Information about the Driver Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Project
Driver fatigue resource center
The FMCSCA has also created a free online resource called the Driver Fatigue Resource Center, where you will find a Driver Fatigue Assessment Form.
This form allows employers to collect data related to potential fatigue issues and identify ways to mitigate those problems. In addition, there are suggestions for dealing with exhaustion, references to further useful materials, and more.
This center contains a variety of useful materials, including:
- A list of questions to ask yourself when considering fatigue management options
- A checklist for evaluating fatigue risks
- A sample fatigue management policy
Top nine ways to reduce driving fatigue on the road
- Try not to start your trip very late in the day: The sun sets earlier every year, which means more daylight hours. If you have a long drive, try to leave as soon as possible to avoid as much night driving as possible. Sadly, this is challenging for long-haul drivers driving for a shipping company whose routes require a lot of driving time, as long-haul drives will most likely be overnight.
- Maintain a good body posture: Sitting up straight and keeping your back straight helps keep your blood flowing through your brain and keeps you alert. Avoid slouching while driving.
- Keep your eyes open: Looking out the window is great for keeping your mind active but if you find yourself staring at the same spot for an extended period of time, stop your truck and close your eyes for a short nap.
- Take frequent breaks: Regular breaks throughout your journey will allow your body to rest and refresh. Make sure to drink plenty of water during these breaks.
- Eat before you go: Eating something small like a snack or having a cup of coffee before heading out will help get your blood pumping and keep you energized. It's best to eat something healthy, though, so choose something like fruit or nuts instead of chips or candy.
- Drink plenty of water: Dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, and even nausea. Be sure to drink lots of water before starting out on your journey.
- Keep the car's environment stimulating: Keep the air conditioner set low and turn on some music. This will help keep your mind stimulated, prevent you from nodding off, and avoid distractions.
- Avoid heavy meals: Heavy meals take longer to digest than light ones, meaning they can make you feel tired later on. Instead, try eating smaller portions more frequently to stay alert while driving.
- Sleep: The night before your drive, make sure you get adequate rest.
In order to keep their employees safe and improve driver health, many car shipping companies have implemented policies designed to reduce the risks associated with fatigue.
For example, some companies require drivers to take breaks during long hauls. Other companies allow drivers to get out of the cab every hour or two.
In some cases, companies monitor driver activity using GPS devices. By doing this, they can identify any patterns of excessive driving that can decrease the major risks of fatal crashes and minimize the effects of long-term health problems caused by insufficient sleep and long-term fatigue.