A truck on a highway during the evening.
Every day, truck drivers across the country can put in more than 700 miles during their shifts, even if they adhere to federal mandates for the number of hours they can legally spend on the road. Those truck drivers can spend as many as 11 hours out of a 14-hour shift each day on the road, leading to considerable exhaustion. Truck driver fatigue has become an increasingly real problems as driver shortages continue to plague many businesses, leaving many companies struggling to find enough drivers to take care of their loads. Unfortunately, that fatigue can heavily increase the risk of accidents, like a recent fatal truck accident in Clayton County. How does fatigue increase the risk of accidents? Driver fatigue can cause a number of common problems out on the road, including many of the same problems potentially experienced by a drunk driver.

1. Fatigued truck drivers may have trouble with tunnel vision.

Big trucks already have large blind spots, where the truck driver may have a very hard time keeping track of what happens on the road around him. A fatigued driver may have even greater reduction in vision. Fatigue can cause drivers to suffer from tunnel vision, which may make it very difficult for them to see the progress of other vehicles around them. Tunnel vision may also make it difficult for truck drivers to keep up with traffic signals and hazards in the road around them, increasing the risk of a devastating accident.

2. Fatigued truck drivers may struggle with slowed reflexes.

Fatigue can dull a driver’s reflexes and make it very difficult for the driver to respond appropriately to potential hazards. Big trucks already require more time to slow or stop than a smaller passenger vehicle. As a result, truck drivers may need to keep their reflexes extremely sharp so that they can respond quickly if needed. Unfortunately, fatigued drivers may have a very hard time maintaining those reflexes, which means that they may prove more likely to cause an accident. Slowed reflexes can make it hard to brake and hard to steer. Furthermore, a fatigued driver may have a hard time safely navigating around sharp turns or reacting to a problem with the truck, including a potential jackknife.

3. Fatigue can cause truck drivers to allow the vehicle to drift out of its assigned lane.

Big trucks often occupy a large percentage of their lanes. They may have relatively little room to drift out of that lane of traffic, which means that if a fatigued truck driver stops paying attention, it can quickly result in a devastating sideswipe or head-on collision. Fatigued truck drivers may try to pay attention to what takes place around them, but fail entirely to notice that the truck has drifted even slightly out of that lane.

4. Fatigued drivers may take more dangerous chances in an effort to get to their destinations sooner.

Frequently, fatigued drivers recognize that they have started to struggle to stay awake, but may feel as though they have few options. Truck drivers may be on tight delivery deadlines. If they fail to meet those deadlines, it could result in devastating consequences for their jobs. They may not feel as though they have a safe area to stop, or they may try to push themselves to drive just a little further before they pull over so that they can officially stop for the rest of their shifts. Unfortunately, that may mean that fatigued truck drivers take a number of dangerous chances in the effort to reach their destinations sooner, including:
  • Speeding
  • Taking turns too sharply
  • Tailgating
  • Ignoring lane requirements for big trucks
Truck drivers who engage in dangerous behavior, especially when they’re already tired, may have a much higher risk of causing severe accidents.

5. A fatigued driver may lack reasoning skills needed to navigate safely.

Frequently, fatigue interferes with higher cognitive processes. Many drivers may have a hard time making smart, reasoned decisions as they grow increasingly tired. Often, fatigued drivers may not realize just how weary they have become. They may not recognize the dangers of continuing to drive, or they may not have the cognitive processing skills to think through the dangers that may crop up from driving too fast. As a result, they may foolishly engage in those dangerous behaviors, including driving aggressively or getting too close to other vehicles around them, resulting in a dangerous collision.

6. Fatigued drivers may actually fall asleep behind the wheel.

Ultimately, fatigued drivers may rest their eyes for “just a second” or lose the fight to stay awake behind the wheel. Those drivers may engage in “microsleeps,” in which they fall asleep for just a few seconds, or they may fall asleep for longer periods of time. When the driver falls asleep, the truck has no one to control it. A sleeping driver cannot steer, stop, or signal other drivers about a potential problem. Often, the vehicle will not come to a stop until it hits something, including another vehicle.

Fighting Truck Driver Fatigue

FMCSA regulations aim to help combat driver fatigue as much as possible. After eight hours behind the wheel, truck drivers must take at least a 30-minute break; and after completing a 14-hour shift, truck drivers must spend at least 7 hours without driving. That long stretch encourages drivers to get adequate sleep, which may provide them with the ability to drive without fatigue once they do get back behind the wheel. However, despite those regulations, truck drivers still have very long shifts behind the wheel. Some truck drivers may also have exceptions that will allow them to drive longer, which may further increase fatigue.

Did You Have an Accident with a Fatigued Truck Driver?

If you suffered injuries in a truck accident due to a fatigued driver, an experienced truck accident attorney can help you learn more about your right to compensation. Contact Cambre & Associates today to learn more about your rights after a truck accident.