Awake at the Wheel

Truck Driver FatigueThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 100,000 fatigue-related crashes occur each year, many of which involve professional drivers in heavy commercial vehicles. That averages out to 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary damages each year as a result of fatigue-related accidents.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSA):

“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, or 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.”

That citation means that both drivers and their companies have a legal responsibility to make sure that anyone suspected of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or other similar condition, stays off of the road.

The Hours of Service regulations are supposed to help drivers get more rest but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says those rules have done nothing to improve safety because there is no way to effectively monitor hours spent behind the wheel.

According to the NHTSA, drivers are more susceptible to falling asleep while driving because they are generally required to drive long distances for long periods of time. Data from the National

Transportation Safety Board confirms that fatigue is the most frequently cited cause of large truck crashes.

Commercial truck drivers are required by FMCSA to have regular medical exams but many sleep disorders still go undiagnosed.

Common sleep apnea risk factors include:

  • Male
  • Middle to older age
  • Large neck circumference
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoker
  • Alcohol or sedative user
  • Obesity/high body mass index
  • Heavy snoring
  • Mouth breather