The risks of fatigue and drowsiness for truck drivers

Signs of driver fatigue include head nodding, frequent yawning, irregular driving speed, difficulty keeping your eyes open, improper gear changes, and going in and out of your lane.

When it comes to vehicular accidents, driving under the influence of alcohol is considered the main culprit, and with good reason. However, there is another subtle but alarming cause of traffic accidents that often goes unnoticed; driver fatigue.

This is especially true for truckers and other long-haul drivers. When drivers get behind the wheel without enough rest and sleep, their cognition, alertness, and overall performance suffer. As a result, the risk of accidents increases significantly.

While drowsiness may not seem like a major concern, it is one of the leading causes of accidents on American highways. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), drowsy driving causes approximately 100,000 71,000 accidents, 1,550 XNUMX injuries, and XNUMX deaths.


Have you been involved in an accident caused by drowsy driving? If so, you may be eligible for damages. The Angell Law Firm has experienced truck accident lawyers ready to help you with your case. 

Key Statistics on the Dangers of Drowsy Truckers

The only way you can understand the risk and frequency of drowsy driving is by looking at key statistics. 

  • Drowsy driving is a key factor in 9.5% of all crashes and 10.8% of crashes involving airbag deployment (AAA)
  • The CDC indicates that 18 hours without sleep is similar to having a blood alcohol content of .05%.
  • 1 in 25 drivers confess to falling asleep while driving (CDC)
  • Approximately 27% of drivers report that they have been behind the wheel and having difficulty keeping their eyes open (AAA)
  • 47% of drivers who fall asleep while driving do so on short trips that do not exceed an hour (NHTSA)

Beyond this, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration advises that late in the evening or between midnight and 6 a.m. 

Key Truck Driving Regulations

Truckers perform a key service in society. Without your commitment to ensuring that goods are delivered on time to all corners of the nation, shortages would be common. However, they should not exceed the limit or be forced to do so.

For this, there are specific rules.

Federal Trucking Regulations on Hours of Service

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), all commercial motor vehicles and interstate drivers must comply with established sleep regulations. The goal of these laws is to limit the time truckers can operate between breaks to prevent accidents.

They include:

  • The limit for driving a commercial motor vehicle in a single work period is 11 hours.
  • Before starting another shift, truckers must have at least ten consecutive hours off duty
  • The driving limit for truckers is set at 60 hours a week or 70 hours in eight days

While these regulations are for truckers to follow, it is up to trucking companies to enforce them to prevent accidents. 

How does fatigue result in accidents?

Compared to other vehicles, truck drivers need to be very careful. This is because the trucks are large and have many blind spots. So adding fatigue to the mix can only spell disaster.

Here’s how fatigue and sleepiness contribute to truck accidents: 

1. Impaired reflexes

As mentioned, truck drivers must be alert and have sharp reflexes to quickly respond to potential hazards to avoid accidents. 

Similar to intoxication, drowsiness causes drivers to lose alertness and reflexes. So if a tire blows out or another car swerves down the road, they won’t react fast enough to avoid danger.

2. Inability to make accurate and quick decisions

Any time you are on the road, there will be some level of risk. Drivers must make decisions with the least risk in microseconds. Such decisions may include:

  • Stay the course or change lanes
  • Brake immediately or swerve

These decisions determine the impact an accident will have. However, when a driver is drowsy or tired, the driver’s ability to make the right decision quickly will be reduced. 

What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?

The main causes of truck driver fatigue include:

1. Being Overworked

Approximately 3.5 million truckers deliver 70% of all goods transported in the US each year. And this doesn’t take into account goods transported across the Canadian and Mexican border. 

Due to the large volume of goods that must be transported and the need for them to reach their destination on time, truck drivers bear the lion’s share of this responsibility. As a result, they spend long hours on the road and often don’t get enough rest between shifts.

Plus, truckers are typically paid by the mile, which encourages them to try harder.

2. Irregular hours

Beyond putting in long hours, truckers also have to deal with irregular shifts. This means that they cannot establish or stick to a consistent sleep pattern. Therefore, even if they have long enough breaks, it is difficult to get the necessary rest. 

3. Drunkenness

Although discouraged, many truckers consume alcohol while on the road. When intoxication is combined with fatigue, the likelihood of causing accidents increases. 

4. disease

Do you know how you try to get through work even when you’re not feeling well? Truckers also do the same.

However, this makes your job even more difficult as the body naturally craves rest when sick. Illnesses such as the flu or a cold will make the driver even more fatigued and drowsy. Depending on the disease, some drugs cause drowsiness, which increases the risk of an accident.

Driver Fatigue Results

Truck collisions occur in different ways compared to ordinary vehicle accidents. This is due to the difference in size between trucks and other vehicles. It is also the reason why accidents involving trucks result in more serious injuries to passenger vehicle occupants and greater property damage. 

Some of the types of accidents involving trucks include:

  • tires
  • rear-end collisions
  • Override Accidents
  • Lost Loads
  • Blind spots
  • head-on collisions
  • T-Bone Accidents
  • Razor

Who is responsible for my truck accident?

If you are injured in an accident because the truck driver was sleepy, you may be wondering who is really at fault for the accident and your injuries. Of course, the driver has some responsibilities, but he may not be the only one responsible.

Here are some of the parties that may be responsible:

1. The truck driver

While other parties may also be responsible for the accident, truck drivers cannot be exempt. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to make sure they’re in top driving condition. Unfortunately, many take over-the-counter stimulants, which can also have a negative impact on driving when the stimulant wears off. 

2. The trucking company

The trucking industry is very competitive. So in order for a trucking company to secure more business from customers and continue to grow, it must show that it can deliver more and more goods. And do it on time.

This results in some trucking companies not enforcing FMCSA rules and regulations. Some even pressure drivers to break them by setting unrealistic deadlines. If a trucking company is complicit in breaking those rules, it is also liable for accidents and injuries due to fatigue and drowsiness. 

3. The truck manufacturer

It is important to note that a truck manufacturer cannot contribute to driver fatigue and drowsiness. However, if defective parts contribute to the accident, the shipping company may also be liable.

Steps to take after an accident with a sleepy trucker

After an accident, you may be disoriented and it is hard to tell if the truck driver was drowsy. Therefore, he must take the necessary steps to help protect his health and finances after that.

The steps you must follow are the following:

  • Report the Accident- Do this immediately if you are injured after an accident.
  • Seek medical attention- Even if you don’t see or feel any injuries, be sure to get medical attention.
  • Notify your insurance company- Contact your insurance company to receive the necessary assistance with possible claims
  • Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer- Considering the potential ramifications of an accident, hire a truck accident lawyer to help you with the case.

Get the best representation

Beyond being a traumatic experience, accidents can leave you with lifelong injuries. Depending on their severity, they can limit your mobility and ability to support your family and can cost you a fortune to treat. That is why you should hire a truck accident attorney with a proven track record. 

Frequent questions

As you explore the link between truck driver fatigue and accidents, you may have many questions. Some of the most frequent include:

1. Does driving a truck make you tired?

Truck driving is tedious as the vehicles are big and hard to maneuver. Coupled with the long hour’s truckers spend on the road, this makes the profession exhausting.

2. How do truckers combat fatigue?

There are different methods that truckers use to avoid fatigue, some of which are not recommended, such as taking over-the-counter stimulants. 

3. What should you do to avoid fatigue while driving?

There are different strategies truckers can use to combat fatigue, including limiting caffeine intake, staying hydrated, taking regular breaks, maintaining a healthy diet, taking naps before driving, etc.

4. What are some warning signs of driver fatigue?

Signs of driver fatigue include head nodding, frequent yawning, irregular driving speed, difficulty keeping your eyes open, improper gear changes, and going in and out of your lane.