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Home Sponsored How Truck Driver Fatigue Contributes to Highway Accidents: Solutions and Strategies

How Truck Driver Fatigue Contributes to Highway Accidents: Solutions and Strategies

The National Library of Medicine reports that at least 13% of serious truck accidents in the US are associated with truck driver fatigue. Serious crashes do not only result in injury and potential loss of life. Trucking companies can also face steep repair costs, higher insurance premiums, lawsuits, and reputational damage.

There are a number of factors that can cause truck driver fatigue. For some drivers, a number of factors are involved, while other drivers’ fatigue might have only one cause. Common causes include:

Extended hours of driving without a break: Long hours on the road reduce alertness and reaction times. According to studies, the risk of crashing triples after the eleventh hour of driving, and taking a break over 11 hours reduces the chances of crashing by 68%, while taking two or three breaks reduces the chances by 83% and 85%, respectively.

Using medications that cause drowsiness: Over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause drowsiness and fatigue. One study found that 17% of truck drivers involved in accidents had used over-the-counter medication.

Lack of rest and sleep: Inadequate rest and irregular sleep patterns impair the brain’s cognitive function and cause fatigue. Being awake for 18 hours while driving is similar to driving with a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration and increases the risk of accidents.

Poor diet and dehydration: Poor diet and not drinking enough water can lead to nutritional inefficiencies and blood sugar fluctuations, which contribute to fatigue and impaired cognitive function.

Repetitive tasks: Driving a truck involves performing repetitive tasks which can lead to mental fatigue that increases drivers’ chances of making a mistake behind the wheel.

Stress and mental fatigue: Challenging weather conditions, the stress of ensuring shipments are delivered safely, traffic, and tight deadlines cause stress and mental fatigue that adversely affects decision-making skills while increasing accident risks. 75% of truck drivers described their jobs as physically and emotionally stressful.

Environmental factors: Extreme temperatures, uncomfortable seating, whole-body vibration, and loud noises can cause truck drivers to become fatigued.

Irregular work schedules: Not having a set routine can reduce truck drivers’ sleep quality and increase their stress levels, leading to mental and physical fatigue.

Lack of physical activity: Truck drivers spend much of their time sitting down. This, and the lack of regular physical exercise associated with it, can lower drivers’ stamina, reduce their alertness, and cause fatigue.

Sleep disorders and other medical conditions: Truck drivers are at risk of developing musculoskeletal problems, sleep disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. 28% of truck drivers in the U.S. have sleep apnea, which potentially contributes to fatigue, and 70% of drivers are obese with an increased risk of other health problems.

As mentioned, fatigue can impair cognitive function and cause drowsiness in truck drivers. This plays out in various ways.

Drivers who are fatigued may find it difficult to pay attention to the road and to what’s happening around them. This could lead to situations such as not being able to respond fast enough to what other road users do or to changes in speed limits or traffic lights.

Along with not being able to pay adequate attention to the road and their surroundings, fatigued truck drivers also experience a slowing down of their reflexes. This makes it difficult for them to respond effectively to unexpected hazards.

Symptoms of truck driver fatigue include:

  • Yawning frequently
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Changing the vehicle speed for no reason
  • Irritability
  • Feeling fidgety
  • Letting the vehicle drift across the road
  • Mild hallucinations
  • Misjudging traffic situations

Implement the following strategies and solutions to combat truck driver fatigue.

Get Sufficient Sleep Before Shifts

Get at least eight hours of sleep before starting a trucking shift to ensure the body and mind are well-rested and alert. A good night’s sleep can also help enhance driver concentration and focus while reducing the chances of making mistakes while driving.

Truck drivers should avoid driving when their bodies enter states of natural drowsiness. These states usually occur between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. and between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. If drivers experience drowsiness while driving, they should pull over and rest for a few minutes.

Recognize Truck Driver Fatigue Symptoms

Truck drivers should learn to recognize the symptoms of fatigue described above. If they recognize any of those symptoms while driving, they should pull over and rest for a while.

Take Regular Breaks

Take regular breaks to escape the monotony, repetitive tasks, and environmental stressors associated with driving a truck. Taking regular breaks to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, rehydrate, and rest can help drivers stay fresh, focused, and alert.

Use Dash Cams with Driver Behavior Recognition

Install a dash cam with driver behavior recognition to alert truck drivers to distracted driving behaviors or fatigue. Using AI and an audible alarm system, some dash cams can recognize signs of distraction and fatigue, such as looking to the right or left for too long, smoking while driving, yawning, and closing the eyes for too long.

If the dash cam recognizes these or other signs of distraction and fatigue, it will alert the driver to change their behavior or to pull over and rest.

Eat Healthy Meals and Stay Hydrated

Truck drivers should reduce the amount of nutritionally deficient, processed food they eat. Instead of eating junk food, they should maintain a healthy diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins consumed at regular meal times throughout the day. This will help ensure they have the energy and nutrients they need to function properly, stay alert, and avoid the fatigue associated with blood sugar crashes that come with eating sugary and fatty foods.

Drivers should also ensure that they drink plenty of water throughout their shift to stay hydrated, even if this means taking more bathroom breaks. Not drinking enough water can decrease their blood volume, which means less nutrients and oxygen reach their muscles. This results in fatigue and lower energy levels.

While extreme weather conditions, pedestrians, and cars can also cause truck accidents, fatigue plays a significant role in these collisions. However, it can be avoided. Use the strategies above to transform your approach and combat truck driver fatigue.




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