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For truck drivers, nodding off isn't the only danger of fatigue

Commercial truck drivers must follow strict regulations regarding hours worked, and it's all done in an effort to reduce accidents caused by fatigue. If a driver falls asleep at the wheel, he or she is not the only one in danger. Other drivers and passengers can be seriously injured, as can pedestrians and cyclists.

Remember, a truck weighs as much as 80,000 pounds. All of that mass moving quickly and out of control, even for a short time, is extremely dangerous.

Small lapses

However, it's important to remember that falling asleep behind the wheel is not the only danger that drivers face when they're too tired. They could suffer from smaller lapses.

For instance, a driver who is fatigued could start to feel sleepy even while still technically awake and watching the road. A driver's reaction time gets longer when he is tired, meaning he may not react fast enough to unexpected issues.

It's also easy for the mind to wander as one gets tired. Experts warn against "briefly inattentive behavior." If a tired driver starts thinking about when they finally get to go to bed or, perhaps, not really thinking about anything at all, it can lead to an accident.

The risk factors

The truth is there are a lot of risk factors. You can't just look at how long someone worked or how long they slept. Some things to consider include:

  • How inherently susceptible a driver is to feeling tired or exhausted
  • How easily that person falls asleep
  • What their diet looks like
  • If they drink enough water
  • If they get enough exercise
  • If they have medical conditions that make them tired
  • If they have medical conditions that prevent a good night's sleep
  • When they spend the most time on the road
  • If they are using any drugs or medications
  • If they actually sleep when they're on their breaks

This last issue can play a big role. While it is one thing for the authorities to tell drivers to take breaks, there is no realistic way to make sure that those drivers are actually sleeping during those breaks.

Truck driver injuries

In some cases, drivers get hurt on the job when another driver gets tired and causes an accident, or when they're pushed to work too much and they get exhausted themselves. Dock workers and loading teams are also at risk. If this leads to an accident and a serious injury, workers need to know what legal rights they have in Nebraska.

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