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Truck drivers and fatigue

One of the worst elements of fatigue in relation to driving is that it can happen so fast, sneaking up on a vehicle operator and creating havoc. Truckers generally work long hours, and weariness can affect their safety as well as the safety of the drivers around them. The Department of Transportation reports that fatigue is a major factor in the thousands of large truck accidents that occur each year.

Regulating hours

With the intent of curbing fatigue, it is the responsibility of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, to regulate the number of hours that truck drivers may spend on the road. One of the main requirements is that drivers take a rest break of 30 minutes within the first eight hours of their shift. Drivers must also take a 34-hour rest break, known as a “restart,” that essentially affords them real downtime between long work weeks. The focus here is on reducing a trucker’s average maximum hours from 82 hours a week to 70, although the hours most trucking companies require of their drivers do not come close to the maximum allowed by the FMCSA.

Accidents will happen

Most truck drivers are conscientious professionals, but if they do not realize that fatigue is creeping up on them, they may be unaware of erratic driving behavior, like drifting back and forth between lanes. The driver certainly does not want to cause a crash, but an accident is a very real possibility when the effort to stay awake and alert becomes increasingly difficult.

A common injury

Truck drivers sustain more back injuries than the average person, and they are not always caused by accidents on the highway. There could be a slip-and-fall incident on a loading dock or wrenched back muscles as the result of heavy lifting. Long hours spent in a constantly vibrating seat that usually has insufficient lumbar support can also lead to back pain, and this type of injury might become chronic. A connection may also exist between the level of fatigue a driver experiences and the onset of back pain. When you consider that truckers drive five to seven days a week, and eight or more hours a day, the extended hours of sitting may lead to back discomfort at the very least and often a great deal more.

Slower reaction time

Without enough time to recover, long hours behind the wheel can lead to reduced sleep and recurring fatigue. This may lead to slower reaction time and hamper the driver’s ability to assess problematic situations quickly. Truck drivers who are involved in fatigue-related accidents or injuries may require the assistance of an experienced attorney.