The American Trucking Association has made five recommendations to the Transportation Department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to help reduce the hazards associated with driver fatigue. Research has found that truck drivers who feel fatigued will react more slowly and are likely to make more mistakes behind the wheel than drivers who are fully alert. Worst of all, fatigued drivers are at high risk of falling asleep and losing control of their vehicle.
Commercial truck drivers have one of the hardest and most dangerous jobs in the country for reasons that are unique to their occupation. On one hand, long working hours, frequent periods of stress, routine, and monotony often leave drivers feeling fatigued and sleepy behind the wheel. On the other hand, drivers face pressure to stay on the move in order to earn more (most drivers are paid by the mile) and to meet deadline.
Federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations were designed to prohibit commercial drivers from overextending themselves on the road, yet the system isn’t completely fail-proof. Some drivers complain that the requirement forces them to be dishonest in recording their working and rest periods. A common complaint from drivers is that even with advance planning, the realities of the route sometimes find them running out of driving hours without a place to legally park for miles.
Besides, HOS requirements may be a good start, but even truckers driving within the legal parameters can still find themselves feeling exhausted and drowsy.
ATA believes the following five measures can drastically reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on the road if observed:
- Sleep disorder awareness, training, and screening (sleep apnea, for instance, is a growing concern in the transportation industry)
- Promoting the use of fatigue risk management programs
- Evaluating the use of fatigue detection devices
- Increasing the availability of truck parking on important freight corridors (drivers are frequently forced to choose between violating HOS laws and parking illegally)
- Partnering with the trucking and shipping communities to develop an educational process that identifies for drivers the location of available truck parking