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The Risks of Truck Driver Fatigue and Drowsiness


When it comes to vehicular accidents, driving under the influence is regarded as the primary culprit, and rightly so. However, there’s another subtle yet alarming cause of road accidents that often sneaks under the radar; driver fatigue.

This is especially so for truckers and other long-distance drivers. When drivers get behind the wheel without adequate rest and sleep, their cognition, alertness, and overall performance are impaired. As a result, the risk of crashes increases significantly.

While drowsiness may not seem like a major concern, it’s one of the leading causes of accidents on American roads. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), drowsy driving causes roughly 100,000 accidents, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.

Have you been involved in an accident caused by drowsy driving? If yes, you may be eligible for damage. The Angell Law Firm has experienced truck accident attorneys ready to assist 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 accidents and 10.8% of crashes where the airbag is deployed (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)
  • Roughly 27% of drivers report that they’ve been on the wheel while having difficulty keeping their eyes open (AAA)
  • 47% of drivers who doze off while driving did so on short trips not exceeding an hour (NHTSA)

Beyond this, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that late in the afternoon or between midnight and 6 am are when drowsy driving crashes happen most often. 

Key Truck Driving Regulations

Truck drivers perform a key service in society. Without their commitment to ensuring goods are supplied to every corner of the nation on time, shortages would be common. Nonetheless, they must not push themselves over the limit or be compelled to do so.

To this end, there are specific regulations.

Federal Trucking Regulations on Hours of Service

As per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), all commercial motor vehicles and interstate drivers should adhere to set out hours-of-sleep regulations. The objective of these laws is to limit the time truckers can operate between rest breaks to prevent accidents.

They include:

  • The limit for driving a commercial motor vehicle in a single work period is 11 hours
  • Before beginning another shift, truckers must have at least ten consecutive off-duty hours
  • 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 observe, it’s 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 extra careful. This is because trucks are large and have plenty of blind spots. So, adding fatigue to the mix can only spell disaster.

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

1. Impaired Reflexes

As mentioned, truck drivers ought to be alert and have sharp reflexes to respond to potential hazards swiftly to prevent accidents. 

Similar to intoxication, drowsiness causes drivers to lose their alertness and reflexes. So, if a tire bursts or another car swerves in the way, they’ll not react quickly enough to avert the danger.

2. Inability to Make Sound and Swift Decisions

Any time you’re on the road, there’ll be some level of risk. Drivers need to make decision with the least risk within microseconds. Such decisions may include:

  • Maintaining course or switching lanes
  • Braking immediately or swerving

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

What Causes Truck Driver Fatigue?

The primary causes of truck driver fatigue include:

1. Being Overworked

Approximately 3.5 million truck drivers deliver 70% of all the goods transported in the US each year. And this does not account for goods transported across the border to Canada and Mexico. 

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

In addition, truckers are usually paid by the mile, encouraging them to push themselves further.

2. Irregular Schedules

Beyond spending long hours, truckers also have to contend with irregular shifts. This means that they can’t set or stick to a consistent sleep pattern. So, even if they have long enough breaks, getting the necessary rest is difficult. 

3. Inebriation

While it’s discouraged, many truck drivers consume alcohol while on the road. When intoxication is combined with fatigue, the likelihood of causing accidents increases. 

4. Illness

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

However, this makes their job even more difficult as the body naturally craves rest when sick. Illnesses such as the flu or a cold will make the driver feel even more fatigued and drowsy. In line with illness, some medications cause sleepiness, increasing the risk of an accident.

yawning-male-truck-driver-fatigue-conceptThe Results of Driver Fatigue

Collisions with trucks occur in different ways when compared to ordinary vehicle accidents. This is because of the size difference between trucks and other vehicles. It is also why accidents involving trucks result in more severe injuries to passenger vehicle occupants and greater property damage. 

Some of the types of accidents involving trucks include:

  • Tire Blowouts
  • Rear-end Collisions
  • Underride Accidents
  • Lost Loads
  • Blind Spots
  • Front-end Collisions
  • T-Bone Accidents
  • Jackknife

Who Is Responsible for My Truck Accident?

If you sustain injuries from an accident because the truck driver was drowsy, you may wonder who the real culprit for the accident and your injuries is. Of course, the driver carries some liabilities, but they may not be the only one to be held accountable.

Here are some of the parties that may be liable:

1. The Truck Driver

While other parties may also be responsible for the crash, truck drivers cannot be exempt. At the end of the day, it is their responsibility to make sure they are in peak condition to drive. Sadly, many consume over-the-counter stimulants, which may also have a negative impact on their driving when the stimulant wears off. 

2. The Trucking Company

The trucking industry is very competitive. So for a trucking company to secure more business from clients and continue growing, it must demonstrate that it can deliver more and more goods. And do so on time.

This results in some trucking companies failing to enforce the FMCSA rules and regulations. Some even put pressure on drivers to break them by setting unrealistic deadlines. If a truck company is complicit in breaking such rules, it also becomes liable for any accidents and injuries due to fatigue and drowsiness. 

3. The Truck Manufacturer

It’s important to note that a truck manufacturer cannot contribute to driver fatigue and drowsiness. However, if defective parts contribute to the accident, the trucking company can also be held responsible.

Steps to Take After an Accident With a Drowsy Truck Driver

After an accident, you may be disoriented, and it’s difficult to know if the truck driver was drowsy. So, you must take the necessary steps to help protect your health and finances after that.

The steps you should take are as follows:

  • Report the Accident- Do this immediately if you suffer injuries after an accident
  • Seek Medical Care- Even if you don’t see or feel any injuries, make sure you get medical attention
  • Notify Your Insurance Company- Contact your insurance company to receive the necessary assistance regarding possible claims
  • Hire a Truck Accident Attorney- Considering the possible ramifications of an accident, hire a truck accident attorney 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 may limit your mobility and ability to provide for your family and cost a fortune to treat. This is why you must hire a truck accident lawyer with a proven track record. 

At Georgia Injury lawyer, that’s what you’ll get. We have a team of truck accident injury lawyers with years of experience. So, get in touch with us today for a reliable truck accident attorney in Atlanta, GA.


As you explore the link between truck driver fatigue and accidents, you’ll likely have plenty of questions. Some of the frequently asked ones include:

1. Does Truck Driving Make You Tired?

Driving a truck is tedious as the vehicles are large and hard to maneuver. Along with the long hours, truck drivers spend on the road, this makes the profession tiring.

2. How Do Truck Drivers Fight Fatigue?

There are different methods truck drivers use to avoid fatigue, some of which are not advisable such as taking over-the-counter stimulants. 

3. What Should You Do to Avoid Fatigue While Driving?

There are different strategies truck drivers can use to fight fatigue, including limiting caffeine intake, staying hydrated, taking regular breaks, maintaining a healthy diet, taking pre-drive naps, etc.

4. What are Some Warning Signs of Driver Fatigue?

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

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