Fatigue — by definition — is the feeling of tiredness after working for too long. It is an unrelenting exhaustion that keeps your energy low and affects your performance, your motivation, and your concentration at work.
We all know that fatigue is one of the major challenges for truck drivers and one of the major causes of accidents on the road. The FMCSA has clearly stated that driver fatigue is one of the biggest reasons of road accidents. Introducing Hours-of-Service regulations and electronic logging device mandate are all steps towards mitigating driver fatigue and, hence, road accidents.
Modern-day fleet managers are very concerned when it comes driver fatigue. Successfully minimizing driver fatigue not only improves business operations and driver efficiency, but it also plays a critical role in minimizing road accidents and loss of valuable lives.
Due to limited time of sleep and long hours of work, most professional drivers suffer from a sleeping disorder called sleep apnea. Drivers who suffer from this disorder have 15 percent more risk of being in a crash compared to those who are not.
Fatigue is the common cause why micro-sleeps and/or lapses happen at work. Nineteen percent of professional drivers who took part of a survey said that in the past 30 days, they have accidentally slept while driving. This is an alarming rate given the fact that they spend most of their time on the road driving huge vehicles.
If we talk about statistics, in the year 2000, the estimated cost of damages for fatigue-related accidents in the United States was around $3 billion. As you can imagine, that number has only grown from there.
On May 17, 2017, in a session of PMTC (Private Motor Truck Council of Canada) in Alberta, Canada, Dr. Melissa Snider-Adler confirmed that fatigue is one of the biggest reasons for road accidents.
Dr. Melissa Snider-Adler is the chief medical review officer for DriverCheck, and she highlighted the fact that approximately 20% accidents happen because of driver fatigue. She also explained the negative impact that a lack of sleep has on the human body.
According to her, staying awake for 17 hours is equal to having a blood sugar level of 0.05. It shoots up to 0.1 if someone has been awaken for 24 hours.
Recently, the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study which revealed that approximately 28% of commercial truck drivers in the U.S. are suffering from sleep apnea. People who are suffering from sleep apnea show signs of fatigue, daytime sleepiness, obesity, and cardiovascular problems.
Dr. Melissa recommended at least 7.5 to 8.5 hours of good sleep to all commercial drivers. She also highlighted the fact that a consistent bedtime routine can be crucial.
Some drivers believe marijuana could be a solution to driver fatigue and sleep apnea. However, Dr. Melissa was quick to dismiss marijuana as a potential solution.
She said that although some doctors do prescribe marijuana for anxiety and insomnia, there is no substantial evidence that proves it actually works.
While explaining the potential dangers of Marijuana, Dr. Melissa highlighted that states like Colorado — which legalized the use of marijuana — saw an increase of 203% in just six years between 2006 and 2012 for people who tested positive for THC and were involved in fatal accidents.
On another front, a recent study published by British Medical Journal concluded that “acute cannabis consumption is associated with an increased risk of a motor vehicle crash, especially for fatal collisions.” The study states that cannabis consumption nearly doubles the risk of serious injuries and even death on the road.
One important point to note here is that regardless of the efficiency or dangers of using marijuana, and even the legalization of its use in some states, the Department of Transportation (DOT) bans using marijuana when driving a commercial vehicle.
According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), employers are required to provide trainings and constant communications to remind employees about the risks of smoking weed. In the event that the employer finds out that their employee is using cannabis, he/she should automatically be terminated.
Driver fatigue has always been one of the biggest challenges in the trucking industry. Doctors are confirming it frequently with new studies and researches.
It is the responsibility of commercial drivers, fleet managers, motor carriers, and everyone else to make sure that drivers are not fatigued. Their safety is of utmost importance.
Using ELDs is a great way to ensure that drivers are not exhausted with too much work.
By complying with their Hours-of-Service regulations, commercial drivers can be sure that they are not driving more than they are supposed to. On the other hand, by diving into ELD data such as hard acceleration, hard braking, speeding, and by studying other driving behaviors, fleet managers can predict whether a driver needs rest or not.
Furthermore, since ELDs or electronic logging automates so many tasks, reduce paperwork, and assist drivers with real-time notifications for upcoming HOS alerts, drivers can stay more focused on the road.
The FMCSA introduced the ELD mandate to eliminate driver fatigue and road accidents. It is now everyone’s responsibility to make sure that it is implemented.