Though tractor trailers play an important role in bolstering the economy by transporting goods across the country, they can also be deadly if not operated properly. Their sheer size and weight can turn them into destruction on wheels if the driver is not careful. One of the most common reasons for truck accidents is driver fatigue. This fatigue can be the result of a number of factors, including extended work hours, inadequate sleep, or strenuous activity.
Lack of sleep
A lack of sleep is perhaps the number one reason behind why drivers are fatigued. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, driver alertness was linked to time of day and not time on task. That means drivers are more likely to feel sleepy at night and therefore less alert, especially after midnight when the body is naturally drowsy. Drivers may feel even more fatigued if they have been working for an extended period of time.
Even when drivers have woken from sleep, they are very likely to be affected by sleep inertia in the first hour after waking up. This can impair reaction time, ability to resist sleep, vigilance, and cognitive functioning. Sleep inertia is more likely when drivers sleep in the sleeper berth. Though truck drivers are encouraged to nap, their nap should be for a small amount of time, and drivers should wait fifteen minutes after waking up before getting behind the wheel.
The importance of recognizing the signs of drowsiness
Truck drivers should understand how to recognize the signs of drowsiness, such as frequent yawning and blurred vision. Drowsiness and fatigue contribute to hundreds of serious and even fatal tractor-trailer accidents across the country that can be avoided if trucking companies and drivers take adequate protections to ensure drivers are well-rested. When they neglect this responsibility, it might be possible for accident victims to hold them accountable for resulting injuries through a personal injury claim.