While it is not uncommon for drivers in Montana to share the road with large trucks, some motorists get nervous driving around these enormous vehicles. Despite federal trucking regulations being implemented to enhance trucking safety, violations of these regulations unfortunately occur all over the nation. One major factor considered for contributing to a crash is driver fatigue.

How can truck driver fatigue be remedied? While it is clear that insufficient sleep decreases a driver’s level of alertness, increasing the risk of a truck accident, little is known regarding effective ways to minimize this risk. According to a recent report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, this is complicated by the difficulty of objectively measuring driver fatigue, the invasive nature of measuring the amount and quality of sleep of the driver and the many factors that are unrelated to driver fatigue that contribute to truck accidents.

Based on recent statistics, roughly 40,000 fatalities occur each year due to truck and bus crashes. Of those, 10 to 20 percent are related to driver fatigue. It is believed that the stresses associated with the job contribute to driver fatigue. Irregular schedules and economic pressures generate the risk for insufficient sleep and the development of chronic health issues, such as sleep apnea, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Temporary relief from drowsiness is often experienced from coffee and other caffeinated products, and rumble strips can help alert drivers that drift out of their lane, but these measures only provide temporary assistance and are not remedies for this issue. Additionally, federal trucking regulations, such as those limiting the hours of service, can only do so much.

On boarding systems might be the most promising direction to go in to remedy truck driver fatigue because it includes innovative technology that detects driver fatigue in near real time. A warning system could prevent a driver from falling asleep behind the wheel and even help them avoid a collision.

While there is promise for ways to address truck driver fatigue, the unfortunate reality is that currently there is not much that can be done to reduce this risk. Those harmed in a truck crash caused by a fatigued truck driver should understand they have recourse available to them. An injured victim can seek compensation through a personal injury claim, helping them cover losses and damages incurred from the incident.

Source: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, “New Report Recommends Research to Improve Understanding of Relationship Between Fatigue and Crash Risk for Truck and Bus Drivers,” March 10, 2016