Truck AccidentsThe Dangers of Distracted and Fatigued Truck Driving

June 23, 2024

Truck drivers play a critical role in keeping our economy running by transporting goods across the country. However, operating a large commercial vehicle comes with immense responsibility. Truck drivers must remain focused and alert behind the wheel at all times. Unfortunately, distracted and fatigued truck driving continues to be a major threat on our roadways. This article will examine the dangers of distracted and tired truckers and what can be done to improve safety.

Distracted Truck Driving

Distraction behind the wheel is unsafe for all drivers, but the stakes are much higher when operating a 40-ton truck. Even a brief lapse in attention can have catastrophic consequences. There are three main types of distractions for truck drivers:

  1. Operating a device, eating, grooming, or performing any other activity that requires removing hands from the steering wheel can cause dangerous manual distractions.
  2. Glancing at a phone, GPS, paperwork, or anything else inside or outside the truck cab leads to perilous visual distractions by diverting eyes from the road.
  3. Daydreaming or intensely focusing on conversations with passengers or the radio can divide a driver’s attention, resulting in hazardous cognitive distractions from the task of driving.

Commercial truck drivers face added distraction risks from:

  • Communicating via dispatch systems, cell phones, or CB radios. The constant communications required can draw focus away from the road at critical moments.
  • Consulting maps and GPS navigation. Repeatedly glancing at and inputting destinations into GPS units takes eyes off the highway.
  • Completing logs, paperwork, and other duties. Filling out driving logs, inspecting paperwork, and other clerical tasks are time-consuming distractions.
  • Eating, drinking, and adjusting cabin controls. Reaching for food or drinks, and changing climate and radio settings all require truckers to look away from traffic.

Even experienced truckers can develop unsafe habits over time, underestimating the danger distractions pose. But studies show distracted truckers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a safety-critical event such as a crash, near-crash, or close call.

Drowsy Driving in Commercial Vehicles

Fatigue and drowsiness also greatly compromise truck driver performance and roadway safety. The large size and weight of trucks coupled with driver fatigue is a potentially catastrophic combination. Some contributing factors to trucker fatigue include:

  • Irregular work schedules and long hours – Truckers frequently work irregular shifts and long weeks well over the 40-hour limit.
  • Time pressures – “Hours of Service” regulations limit driving hours per day and week, pressuring drivers to meet deadlines.
  • Disruption of circadian rhythms – Switching between day and night shifts can severely disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
  • Undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders – Conditions like sleep apnea are more prevalent among commercial drivers.
  • Inadequate off-duty rest – Drivers may have limited quality rest due to schedules, environment, and health factors.

Research demonstrates that going without sleep for 18 hours produces impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and 24 hours without sleep equates to a .10% BAC – well over legal limits. Drowsiness slows reaction times and impairs judgment and decision-making abilities needed for safe commercial vehicle operation.

Costs and Consequences

Distracted and drowsy truck driving contributes to thousands of fatal crashes, injuries, and property damage annually across the United States. Some key statistics include:

  • In 2023, over 180,000 trucks were involved in accidents. These resulted in 86,000 injuries and over 5000 deaths.
  • Approximately 65% of truck drivers report they have driven while drowsy within the past year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
  • Driver-related factors are listed as the primary cause in 32% of truck crashes per year.

Beyond the tragic loss of human life and costs in dollars, distracted and tired truck driving can cause:

  • Serious injuries – Head trauma, organ damage, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and severe burns.
  • Emotional trauma – PTSD, anxiety, depression, and survivor’s guilt.
  • Legal consequences – Truck drivers and their companies face charges, lawsuits, fines, and increased insurance rates.
  • Disruption of commercial activity – Crashes delay shipments and commerce.
  • Infrastructure damage – Bridge, road, and highway infrastructure may need repair.

Proven Preventative Measures

While the risks are serious, there are proven ways trucking companies and individual drivers can mitigate the chance of distracted and drowsy driving accidents:

  • Enforce zero-tolerance policies on mobile phone use – Prohibit any use of phones without hands-free systems.
  • Limit other cab distractions – Avoid eating, reading, typing, grooming, or any distracting tasks while driving.
  • Screen for sleep disorders – Identify and treat conditions like sleep apnea that can cause fatigue.
  • Adopt fatigue management programs – Train drivers on getting proper rest, recognizing sleepiness warning signs, and other fatigue countermeasures.
  • Use in-cab technology to increase awareness – Employ lane departure warning systems, collision avoidance systems, driver fatigue and distraction monitoring systems.
  • Adjust scheduling and operations to allow adequate sleep – Modify routes, shifts, and pickup/delivery times to improve driver rest time.
  • Provide safe parking for off-duty rest periods – Ensure drivers have access to secure rest areas.

With enhanced efforts around distraction avoidance and fatigue management, truckers can achieve improved safety records. But truck drivers can’t do it alone. Automobile drivers must also eliminate distractions and share the road safely with large trucks.

Together we can work to reduce preventable truck crashes, save lives, and avoid injuries and property damage across our roadways.

Stay Safe on Florida Highways

Thousands travel Florida’s roadways alongside large commercial trucks every day. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck collision that was no fault of your own, contact our experienced truck accident injury lawyers for dedicated legal guidance. We will thoroughly investigate the accident and hold any negligent parties fully accountable. For a free case review, call our office today.

The consequences of truck crashes can be financially devastating for victims and their families. Our attorneys will fight to help you recover damages to cover medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses resulting from the crash and your injuries. Do not hesitate to reach out, as strict deadlines apply for injury claims. With compassion and expertise, we are here to help truck accident victims pursue maximum compensation.

Visit our office at 422 Jacksonville Dr. Suite B, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250.

Or call us today for a free consultation on (904) 587-4446.
48-49 Russell Square, WC1B 4JP, London
1 800 643 4300

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