Annually, hundreds of people die and tens of thousands are injured in crashes involving a drowsy/fatigued driver. These crashes are clearly preventable. All drowsy drivers have to do, especially those operating commercial motor vehicles, is pull over when it becomes apparent it is no longer safe for them to be driving.
A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suggests nearly one in nine truck drivers involved in a crash report fatigue as the direct cause of the crash. An additional 40 percent of commercial truck drivers claim fatigue, along with pressure from an employer, as contributing factors. Commercial carriers should be aware of these issues and take whatever steps necessary to protect against them.
It goes without saying commercial trucking companies have a legal obligation to ensure safe practices for all their drivers. While fatigue and hours of service are frequently used in the same sentence, there is often just a very tenuous connection between the two. Drivers and fleets are supposed to work hard to comply with the rules, but what are they doing to address driver fatigue? It’s being tired that puts drivers at risk. It’s being tired that changes lives forever.
Even if a company complies with hours of service, there is still a greater responsibility to its driver and the motoring public to prevent fatigue and the dangers associated with fatigued driving. It is important to ask companies essential questions when a fatigue-related crash occurs. What does the company do to control fleet fatigue management? What money, efforts and time does the company expend for proper fatigue management education? Often, drivers are literally left in the dark on how to manage driver fatigue.
The repercussions of big business incentivize drivers to commit hours of service violations and drive while fatigued. This is a dangerous practice caused by large commercial carriers focused on profits rather than safety. Companies should utilize the North American Fatigue Management Program in an effort to educate drivers about fatigue management. This program notably was developed jointly by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Transport Canada, several state and provincial trucking associations, insurance companies and several high-profile motor carriers. The purpose of the program is to provide guidelines and materials that enable motor carriers to implement fatigue management programs within their company.
Moreover, how do companies address concerns involving nighttime driving? It is clear driving at night can be challenging because of the body’s biologically-induced tendency to sleep when it is dark. Drivers taught to recognize the hazards of a poor-quality or insufficient sleep can take steps to mitigate the shortfall by napping during the day or requesting a lighter dispatch. Fleets that embrace a fatigue management approach would be likely to accommodate such a driver.
Many commercial carriers worldwide are stepping up and figuring out ways to help look after their drivers by using fatigue management programs -- thus helping drivers understand what makes them tired. Without ignoring the cornerstones of fatigue management, there are several technologies that are proving useful in preventing crashes related to fatigue.
- Perclose eyelid monitoring systems that record the reflection of the surface of the eyeball on a camera that can detect the brightness. If the eyelid closes, the reflection dims, triggering a warning.
- There are wearable devices that measure the quality of a night’s sleep by recording body movement while sleeping. They are used as an indicator of a person’s quality of sleep.
- Driver-facing cameras are useful as they can detect when a driver has an asleep-at-the-wheel event or even a nodding-off moment.
Companies that fail to provide these trainings and/or tools present a dangerous hazard to the safety and welfare of the motoring public. These negligent companies directly cause/contribute to driver fatigue, which is an issue that haunts the trucking industry every year.
If you or a loved one have been injured by a driver and company because of a fatigue-related issue, call us today for a free consultation. We will thoroughly examine the education policies and procedures that contributed to the collision, uncover any potential violations/misconduct and guide you in your next steps.