Fatigued Truck Drivers Cause Road Accidents

Tractor-trailers, big rigs, semis—the biggest vehicles on the road require the most attention while driving, and it is critical that truck drivers are well-rested to minimize traffic accidents. A percentage of all truck accidents can be avoided with a good night’s rest and keeping eyes focused on the road.

More than 5.6 million car accidents occured in 2012, with 1.63 million resulting in injury and over 30,000 resulting in death, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A study published on ScienceDaily found that trucks account for only 8 percent of all traffic, but up to 11 percent of all traffic accidents. The deadliest three-hour period is between midnight and 3 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, showing an association between fatigue and accidents.

The Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that 88 percent of all truck accidents occurred due to driver error, rather than environmental factors or problems with the vehicle. Seven percent of truck accidents were a result of the driver being asleep, and another 12 percent of accidents resulted from driver inattention or distraction. Fatigue is listed as the No. 6 most common reason for a truck crash, affecting 18,000 incidents during the three years studied.

Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep every night, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To ensure drivers are well-rested, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented Hours of Service regulations for drivers of commercial motor vehicles. These Hours of Service rules apply to all vehicles with one of the following characteristics:

  • Weighs over 10,000 lbs.
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating over 10,000 lbs.
  • Designed/used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Designed/used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

Under these rules, drivers must take an off-duty or sleeper berth period of 30 minutes every 8 hours. Driving, or allowing someone to drive, more than 3 hours beyond the limit is considered an egregious offense, punishable by maximum civil penalties.

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More than half of all truck accidents occur on long-haul trips, which require traveling more than 50 miles from base. If a driver fails to get more than 5 hours of sleep two nights in a row, driving performance is impaired—almost to the level of driving under the influence of alcohol. After spending 24 hours awake, reaction time and functionality is equivalent to a BAC 0.10%.

Trucking is a major part of the U.S. economy, with nearly 3 million truck drivers and 9.2 billion tons of freight hauled in 2011. Trucking was a $604 billion business in 2011, moving over half of the nation’s freight.

Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website for more information about Hours of Service regulation and minimizing the chance of an accident. Learn more about trucking accidents and what to do if you’ve been involved in a driver-caused truck accident .