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Auto Accident 1.30.2022

Causes of Driver Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation

Truck driver fatigue and sleep deprivation are common problems for truck drivers resulting in motor vehicle crashes. Many long-haul truck drivers face chronic partial sleep deprivation. According to the CDC report, in the past researchers have studied eighty long-haul drivers over a five-day period, finding that their electro physiologically verified sleep averaged only 4.78 hours per day—and only 3.83 hours of sleep per day for those drivers on a steady night driving schedule.

While some researchers looking at fatigue have emphasized long-haul drivers, fatigue also affects local short haul truck drivers. In one study 42 local short haul drivers were monitored for approximately two weeks each with video cameras and sensors, finding evidence of driver fatigue such as driving for periods with eyes 80% - 100% closed.

What causes driver fatigue?

Researchers identified three aspects of trucking industry working arrangements that determine truck driver fatigue:

  • the length of continuous work shift and daily duty periods
  • the lengths of time away from work that are available for rest and for continuous sleep
  • the driver arrangement for on-duty, rest, and sleep periods within the 24-hour cycle of daylight and darkness, which normally drags down driver’s circadian rhythms

Truck drivers, are particularly at risk for fatigue because their work schedules are sometimes irregular and beyond the driver’s personal control; their sleep breaks often occur during the day when daylight conditions are not favorable for sleep; they experience stresses in the truck cab such as heat, noise, and vibration; and they continue working even when fatigued in
order to reach their destination.

Researcher have found that schedule pressure often induced to truck drivers to violate hours of service (HOS) regulations or speed limits, particularly for drivers who were driving solo, had long trip distances, or refrigerated loads. In some surveys of truck drivers and motor carrier managers regarding causes of driver fatigue, a finding was noted that the cause most often cited by both groups was driving long hours.

Over the years several studies on work schedules, sleep, and fatigue have been published. An EEG study showed that ships’ engineers who worried about being awakened while they were on call did not sleep well. Truck drivers are commonly in this situation too, having sleep breaks while awaiting telephone calls from dispatch to notify them at an unpredictable time about the next pick-up or drop off informing as well as their availability of their next load.

Similarly, a survey of over 5,000 employed adults found that problems unwinding after work often disturbed sleep. The strongest correlation of fatigue was night work, a long time awake, and backwards rotation of driver shifts; day sleep and early shift starting times had weaker correlations with fatigued truck drivers. It was unclear, however, that on-demand truck driver scheduling led to fatigue.

The importance of considering the truck driver’s circadian rhythm in designing work schedules was CDC reported in a study of 85 industrial shift workers who initially had a weekly backward shift rotation (an 8-hour phase advance, in which workers’ start times rotate from day to night to afternoon). Workers were happier, and their productivity was higher, when their shift rotation was changed to a forward rotation (an 8-hour phase delay, in which workers’ start times rotate from day to afternoon to night) once every 21 days.

Trucking companies have problems with slow rotation (such as every 21 days) or steady night
shifts: workers revert from a nocturnal schedule to a diurnal schedule during the weekend
in order to spend time with family and friends, undermining the adaptation to night

Truck driver work schedules, however, often are not in accord with the proper rotation recommendations by industry experts. The federal HOS regulations for interstate truck drivers permitted a driver in a hurry—or a carrier dispatching a driver for maximum productivity—to adopt an 21-hour cycle: 11 hours of driving, followed by ten hours off-duty, followed by another driving cycle.

This irregular nature of driver work/rest cycles presents an additional systemic problem in the trucking industry. Truck drivers often must work or attempt to sleep at an inappropriate circadian phase. If a truck driver’s work/rest cycle is synchronized with the solar day, the endogenous circadian signal helps the person maintain alertness for a full 16 hours. In the early evening homeostatic sleep pressure – the need for restorative sleep after a long time awake – begins to build, and eventually helps the person fall asleep. At 3 AM, after the first few hours of sleep have relieved the homeostatic pressure, the circadian signal helps the person stay asleep. Similarly, if a person whose circadian clock has been dragged to the solar day tries to work all night, homeostatic pressure and the circadian signal will combine to make him or her sleepy.

Furthermore, sleeping during the day may be difficult, even if he or she has been awake for a long time. In general, regional freight is loaded early evening, and the truck driver is required to deliver it by the following morning. In these circumstances, when the carrier’s operations have a daily pattern of local freight pickup and overnight delivery (as in the regional LTL market), city truck drivers will work during the day while over the road drivers will run through the night. These drivers’ problems arise on and following the weekend when they shift to their families’ normal day schedule and back again to working the night shift the next week. It is well known, however, that drivers often do not accurately record sleep in logbooks or diaries, so research needs to be done to find out how long truck drivers are awake.

Need To Speak To A Driver Fatigue Lawyer?

If you or a loved one have been injured in a suspected driver fatigue accident, speak to the driver fatigue accident expert attorneys at The Joseph Dedvukaj Firm to get your FREE consultation to discuss how you can prove driver fatigue to maximize the compensation you deserve after a car, truck, bus, or motorcycle accident. Call today 1-866-HIRE-JOE or contact us through the website to schedule your appointment. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions or concerns.

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