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Is Driver Fatigue a Problem?

02/01/09

Is Driver Fatigue a Problem?

  09:48:49 am, Categories: regulations , Tags: driver fatigue

We have heard a lot about driver fatigue and its role in causing accidents on our nation’s highways. But what are the real figures? Is driver fatigue really a problem?

Saferoads.org claims: "Each year truck crashes kill over 5,000 people and injure almost 150,000 more on our nation's roads and highways. Nearly one in four passenger vehicle deaths in multiple-vehicle collisions involve a large truck."

Attorney Jim S. Adler claims: "Truck driver fatigue is a significant cause of 18-wheeler accidents, leading to at least 750 fatalities and 20,000 injuries per year."

What a swing! 750 fatalities compared to 5000? 20,000 injured compared to 150,000? Which of these is correct or are they figures pulled from a hat?

Plainly stated, this analyst believes both are designed to make the trucking industry look like a monster storming the road of North America with half-crazed, half-dazed and overworked drivers. I am not writing to bash Saferoads.org or Mr. Adler. I am not writing to suggest that all truck drivers are driving within the legal limits as outlined by the Federal Department of Transportation (US DOT). What I am suggesting is that the trucking industry as a whole is safer now that it has ever been.

The US DOT modified the hours a driver can work (driving and non-driving hours) on a given day in 2005. (The complete rules may be found here.) Succinctly stated, a driver may drive up to 11 hours in a 24 hour period and may work no more that 14 hours in a 24 hr period before he is required to have a minimum of 10 hours down time. This 14 hr-day rule is good unless you exceed 70 hrs in 8 consecutive days, and then the driver is in violation.

The trucking industry is the only industry that penalized a driver for taking time off. How many of us can think of someone we work(ed) with in our 9 to 5 jobs that staggered in on Monday exclaiming they were so tired from the weekend that they needed to come to work to rest. Did we send them home or tell them they couldn’t work until they were actually able to work. How many of us in our daily 9 to 5 jobs are required to record start-stop times for every activity we do. I don't mean punching a clock when we get in and when we leave for the day – I mean punching a clock every time we change what we are doing.

What does this have to do with driver fatigue? Simple, most drivers today follow the US DOT rules without any problems. The number of "tired" drivers is fewer now than ever on our roads. Yes, we have some "bad apples" out there that we need to find, educate and/or remove before they become applesauce. But unlike the law profession where 99% of all lawyers give the rest a bad name, in the trucking industry 1% of drivers are giving the rest a bad name.

Whether 750 lives or 5000 lives are lost each year in accidents with big rigs, we in the transportation industry want to bring that number to zero. If we all work together, if we all try harder, and if we all work smarter it can happen.

How can we eliminate driver fatigue? Follow the DOT regulations. Drivers, refuse to drive when you are running low on hours. Trucking companies: refuse to put your drivers in jeopardy; listen to them, they really are thinking with the company’s best interest at heart. Buyers and consumers: don't ask the impossible of the trucking companies that serve you.

Is driver fatigue a problem? Yes, but it is getting better.

Dale Clark
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Logistics Systems, Inc.
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company™

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