Commercial truckers who admitted to falling asleep while driving are believed to cause more than 750 fatalities and 20,000 injuries every year.
In truth, that estimate is likely quite low.
It’s almost impossible to know how many truck accidents sleepy truckers cause. The same is true for car accidents – very few drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel and causing a crash.
But what we do know is fatigued driving is a bigger problem for truckers compared to other drivers, due to the sheer amount of time they spend behind the wheel.
Safety Rules Change Keeping Sleepy Truckers on the Road
The new changes in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours-of-service rules probably won’t help. Truckers are no longer required to take 30-minute break every 8 hours, or 2 overnight breaks between work-weeks.
Some semi-truck drivers found the safety changes implemented last year prohibitive, and believe the FMCSA rule change is helping them.
None of these rules address what many believe to be the real problem for truck drivers: the pay-per-mile system. When truckers are paid per-mile, instead of per hour, they have a lot more incentive to keep driving instead of stopping to sleep.
The risk of a crash effectively doubles from the eighth to the tenth hour of driving, and doubles again from the tenth to the eleventh hour of driving alone.
– FMCSA, 2000
Fatigued truck drivers operating huge, heavy tractor-trailers put everyone on the road at risk.
Earlier this year, comedian Tracy Morgan and several others were seriously injured —one man was killed—when a sleepy trucker rear-ended their vehicle at a high speed. The truck driver had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash.