Despite regulatory changes aimed at minimizing the number of truck accidents caused by drivers dozing off at the wheel, driver fatigue still contributes to about 40 percent of these crashes. Trucking companies need to do their part to limit the number of hours their drivers are on the road. However, drivers also need to recognize the signs of fatigue and get off the road.
It's essential to understand the causes of driver fatigue. Some are fairly obvious, but some aren't.
What makes certain truck drivers more prone to dozing off? People who are overweight, unfit or generally in poor health become tired more easily. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, can be particularly dangerous for truck drivers. They may think they're getting enough sleep, but their sleep doesn't refresh and renew their body as it should. One study found that almost a third of truck drivers have a sleep disorder.
Even a person's emotional health can impact their ability to stay awake. A person who is highly stressed -- whether about work or a personal issue -- can become tired more easily than usual.
Nondriving work duties can also lead to driver fatigue. While a driver may be staying within the maximum time allowed behind the wheel, if they're loading and unloading heavy cargo, they may become tired from the exertion before they even begin their trip.
Not surprisingly, truck drivers are typically most at risk of dozing off during the overnight hours. Our bodies naturally begin preparing to go to sleep when it gets dark out. Even if a driver is getting plenty of sleep during the day, they may still have trouble staying awake during their overnight route -- particularly if this schedule is new for them.
If you have been injured in a crash caused by a truck driver, you should make sure that the investigation looks at things like how long the driver had been on the road, what they'd been doing before they got behind the wheel and whether they were fully alert. An experienced attorney can help you work to hold the driver, their employer and/or the truck manufacturer legally responsible so that you can get the compensation you need to deal with the aftermath of a truck crash.