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Preventing Truck Driver Fatigue

Preventing Truck Driver Fatigue

Commercial truckers face many challenges as they transport goods from one corner of the country to the other. Trucking can be a grueling task, requiring long hours, backbreaking labor, and the loneliness and stress of the open road. Truck driver fatigue often results from the demands of the trucking industry, and this fatigue is a leading cause of semi truck accidents. As a risk management approach that supplements semi truck and commercial liability insurance, trucking companies must take the steps to reduce the impacts of driver fatigue, helping to keep truckers and other road users safe. 

Truck Driver Fatigue: Statistics

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck driver fatigue may be caused by several factors, including inadequate sleep, extended hours of work, extended non-work hours, or strenuous activity. The cumulative result of driver fatigue has been pinpointed as a common cause of semi truck accidents.

The FMCSA’s Large Truck Causation Study (LTCCS), conducted in 2008, uncovered alarming statistics related to driver fatigue:

  • 13% of commercial motor vehicle drivers involved in crashes were found to be fatigued at the time of the incident.
  • 963 vehicle accidents were sampled for the study. These accidents accounted for 249 deaths and over 1000 injuries. 
  • 73% of accidents in the study involved at least one other vehicle, including passenger cars and other commercial vehicles. 
  • The study focused on a relatively small sample size; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 120,000 fatal and injury crashes took place during the study period. 

Crash numbers have only risen since this study. Today, well over 150,000 large trucks are involved in crashes, resulting in thousands of injuries and hundreds of fatalities each year in the United States alone. 

Tips for Managing Truck Driver Fatigue

Injuries, deaths, and property damage or loss account for millions of dollars in insurance claims filed by the commercial transportation industry each year. With the risk of injuries or fatalities resulting from semi truck accidents on American highways, trucking companies need to take the necessary steps to manage driver fatigue

It is important to understand that hours of service rules mandated by trucking regulators are only a stopgap in terms of reducing injuries or deaths. While these regulations do have their benefits, there are other aspects that help to reduce crash incidents, including semi truck accidents and property damage issues. 

Trucking companies should begin by implementing dedicated fatigue management training for all truck drivers. This type of training differs from compliance training such as using electronic logging equipment or managing work hours. Rather, fatigue management focuses on the causes of and solutions to driver fatigue, helping equip drivers with the tools they need to get adequate rest. This training should be conducted on a regular basis for both new drivers as well as experienced truckers. 

Additional tips for fighting driver fatigue include:

  • Getting enough sleep – while uninterrupted, restful sleep may be hard to obtain for many truckers, adequate sleep remains the leading solution for cumulative fatigue. The overnight hours (midnight to 6:00AM should be used for sleep; additional naps or sleep sessions can take place in the early afternoon if needed.)
  • Implementing rest breaks during the workday – no driver likes to admit that he or she is tired, and may be unwilling to take periodic breaks. However, this can be a recipe for disaster, and break times must be worked into driver schedules. Breaks are also mandated by federal safety laws. 
  • Avoiding medications or foods that can cause drowsiness.
  • Getting adequate exercise.
  • Implementing healthy eating habits by reducing intake of sugar and fats.
  • Avoiding reliance on “alertness tricks” like drinking coffee, rolling down the cab windows, or turning up the radio. These tricks may make a driver feel more alert for a moment, but they have no lasting effect. 

Technology may also offer solutions for truck fleets, allowing them to keep drivers safe and to reduce semi truck accidents. These technologies monitor driver alertness and behavior, then set off alarms as needed. Sleep monitoring devices, such as wearable “smart” watches, may also help drivers gauge their sleep quality and can be used as a learning tool. Safety is paramount in the commercial trucking industry. By addressing driver fatigue, fleet owners can help protect their drivers, their equipment, and other road users from damage as well as human injury or death. 

About Gain Insurance Agency

Gain Insurance Agency protects trucking businesses against liabilities and claims in the industry. We combine products provided by respected insurance providers with our expertise and custom packages to meet customers’ individual needs. Our goal is to give you the coverage that you need at the lowest possible price. To learn more about our products and services, contact us today at (877) 424-3344.

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