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Why do truck drivers struggle with drowsy driving?

November 13, 2018

A truck driver falls asleep on the interstate, drifts across the median and plows into oncoming traffic. Meanwhile, another trucker nods off for a split second and runs a red light. Elsewhere, a third truck driver may not fall asleep, but he’s so tired that he doesn’t notice the traffic jam ahead of him in time to stop.

These are, to a degree, hypothetical examples. But they’re things that really can and do happen. If you watch the news, you will see plenty of devastating truck accidents that occur because drivers get tired. Why does this happen and what can we do to prevent it?

Sticking to a schedule

The first issue is that truckers, like other workers, have a schedule. Have you ever felt so tired at your desk that you just want to put your head down and take a nap? If so, you need to know that truckers sometimes feel the exact same way. The only difference is that their “desk” is an 80,000-pound vehicle moving at highway speeds.

There are rules and regulations about how long truckers can drive, like the 14-hour rule. That does help to keep drivers from being overworked and trying to drive all day. However, it does not stop them from driving as long as they are within the limit. A driver who is nodding off after 12 hours on the road can legally keep driving and cause an accident. Schedules are still a pressing factor.

Delays and time off

Another issue is that time off isn’t always really time off. In theory, a trucker may stop driving and “rest” for eight hours. But that’s not necessarily eight hours of sleep. It may be a half hour of finding a parking spot and locking down the truck. It could be an hour at a local diner to eat. It could be another hour answering emails and phone calls that the trucker wisely ignored on the road. After that, it could take another half hour for the driver to fall asleep. Suddenly, that eight-hour rest is really just five hours of sleep if they’re lucky.

Pay systems

One potential issue is that drivers often earn money per mile driven. They are not paid by the hour. They are not necessarily “on the clock” in the traditional sense.

What this means is that a driver who gets dangerously tired may know he or she should stop, but doing so means actively losing money. An hour-long nap costs the trucker 65 miles of interstate and all of the money that goes along with it. Truck drivers have budgets and bills, and they often try to gut it out.

Injury compensation

These are three reasons why truck accidents keep happening. If you get injured, make sure you know if you have a right to financial compensation.

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