When you start yawning while driving, you probably know that it is time to head home or pull to the side of the road to rest. However, due to a wide variety of factors, truck drivers may not pull off the road when they become fatigued or drowsy.
How common is driver fatigue among truckers? While we cannot know how many truck drivers stay behind the wheel even when feeling fatigued, statistics indicate that drowsiness is a common factor in trucking accidents. In fact, studies have shown that around 13 percent of trucking accidents involve driver fatigue.
What causes truck driver fatigue? A wide variety of different factors can contribute to trucker drowsiness, including:
Medical conditions—A truck driver’s health can impact their driving in a variety of ways. For example, truck drivers are 11 times more likely to have sleep apnea, and this condition can leave them less rested even if they take other precautions. Pressure from employers—Despite legal regulations that limit truckers hours on the road, some employers may place pressure on truckers to drive for longer than they are legally allowed in order to meet deadlines. Medication use—Drivers may use medications that cause drowsiness. Working shifts outside usual working hours—Depending on the demand from their employer, drivers may need to work outside their usual waking hours. Inadequate sleep or strenuous activities—Sometimes, a lack of sleep, physical exertion or stress can lead directly to driver fatigue. No matter what the cause of drowsy driving, the results can be dangerous for other drivers on the road. Studies have shown that long hours awake can impact coordination and cognitive abilities, with 18 hours without rest creating similar results to a blood alcohol content of .05 percent. Especially when a drowsy driver is behind the wheel of a big rig, this can lead to serious and even catastrophic accidents.