Wake Up the Tired Truckers

by Andrew R. Young | May 21st, 2013

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The definition of “well-rested” is “having had sufficient (or even more than enough) sleep or rest to function optimally during waking hours.” Most truckers know that if they or their fellow truckers are not well-rested, then their lives and the lives of others are needlessly put in danger. Safe truckers have developed a routine that allows for plenty of rest. Safe truckers have also learned to avoid fatigue and/or recognize the signs and symptoms by pulling over before it is truly too late.

Unfortunately, the bad apple spoils the bunch. It seems daily that a news report is issued wherein an early-morning, single-truck, rollover-accident likely was caused by a tired trucker unable to stay between the lines. I often tweet about these accidents as a reminder to us all that drowsy driving is a hazard to the safety of everyone on the roadway. These tweets often bring about important conversation regarding sleep awareness and fatigue management.

Startling Statistics Prove Drowsy Driving Is Deadly

A recent news article, entitled “Drowsy driving remains an elusive highway dilemma” cites drowsy driving as the cause of more than 11,000 deaths from 2000 to 2010. Moreover, the University of Michigan Transportation Institute’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study revealed that at least 18,000 of the truck accidents they studied were caused by fatigue. The National Transportation Safety Board cites driver fatigue as a contributing factor in as many as 30 to 40% of all heavy truck crashes. The National Sleep Foundation states that 50% of adult drivers say they have driven while drowsy. By simply following truckers on twitter, the truth of these statistics becomes all the more startling.

Tired Truckers’ Tweets

– “I am struggling tonight at work. 4 hours of sleep isn’t cutting it. ZZZZZ.”

– “Hanging on to stay awake.”

– “Fueling up then pulling a red eye ride to get this shit off for Friday. 567 mi to go.”

– “After 33 hrs off you think a guy could sleep. Ahh no what’s wrong with this.”

– “I’m tired been up almost 24 hours so ummm yea.”

– “I’m traveling beyond my hours to save my life.”

– “Speed Limit: Cars 65 Trucks 55… that makes me sleepy & wanna tweet going down the road to stay awake.”

Truckers who have not yet found a fatigue management routine are likely going to end up with their rig upside down and/or through a guard rail. Inevitably, the trucker ends up in the hospital and in the news. Tired truckers also can find themselves facing jail time for causing a vehicular homicide. These news stories cast a dark shadow on the public’s perception of all truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are clear. FMCSR 392.3 – “Ill or fatigued operator. No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.”

Fatigue warning signs include: dull vision; slow reaction time; frequent yawning; memory lapses; erratic driving; disconnected thoughts; and, impaired judgment. The truckers sending out the above-mentioned tweets were certainly not exercising good judgment and were likely a danger to all alert and safe motorists.

Save A Fellow Tired Truckers Life – Call 911

Trucker Eric, who also writes periodically for GoByTruckNews, hosts his own web blog, www.bigroadblog.com. At his site, you can find what I consider to be one of the most courageous and heroic blog posts titled, “911.” In this blog, Eric talks about the importance of truck drivers looking out for one another. He then recites a particularly scary story of a truck driver weaving in and out of his lane and clearly driving while drowsy. Eric then did the responsible thing. He called 911 to report this unsafe driver. It is my personal belief that Eric prevented the likelihood of an imminent accident. He not only likely saved this tired trucker’s life, but potentially the lives of other motorists as well.

We all know the familiar sayings “Keep Rubber To The Road;” “Keep It Between The Lines;” and, “Keep The Shiny Side Up. ” Why is it then that these early-morning, rollover-accidents continue to happen? The good, safe truckers, should follow Eric’s example and take a stand against tired truckers. If there is one imminent danger to the well-rested trucker……it is the tired trucker.

Speak Out and Speak Loud

I have far too often represented injured truckers and motorists harmed or killed as a result of drowsy driving. It is important for us all to speak loud enough on this issue that those who are tired…. wake up! A little extra noise about the fatal effects of fatigued driving is crucial to protect your own life on the highway and save the lives of others before accidents happen. Speak out before another motorist’s life is destroyed and before a tired trucker eventually falls dead asleep. Driving straight, true, and alert will guarantee that the shiny side stays up and rubber stays on the road.

A tired trucker may repeat the mistake of driving fatigued. But, as Harvey Mackay, a well-known businessman and author, states, one mistake usually won’t kill you, “[t]he same mistake over and over will.” It is a mistake for all of us to remain “silent as a grave” on this issue.

My next blog will identify industry-wide systemic problems (shippers / receivers / dispatchers / load planners / employers / parking issues) making it difficult for many truckers to drive well-rested.

Andrew R. Young, Chair of the Trucking Safety Section, Ohio Association for Justice / Truck Accident Attorney / Licensed Class A, Commercial Drivers License –
Follow Andy on Twitter, @SafeDriveHome, for safe driving tips and more.