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Tired Truckers Cause Accidents

Of all of the causes of truck collisions, one of the most preventable gets the least press: driver fatigue—in other words, tired truckers.

Although federal law both limits the maximum number of hours that a truck driver is supposed to drive and prohibits truckers from driving if they are “impaired through fatigue,” the fact is that more and more big-rig drivers are taking to the highways without enough sleep. There are several reasons for this, including the relaxed industry regulation that has resulted in less-experienced truck drivers on the road. Before 2004, the federal government allowed truckers to drive no more than 10 consecutive hours. Statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) showed that the number of fatigue-related crashes jumped dramatically after eight hours of driving and continued to increase through the 10th hour allowed. Despite this evidence, the federal regulations were changed in 2004, and truck drivers are now allowed to drive up to 11 consecutive hours, meaning that there are more tired truckers on the road than ever.

As you might guess, the number of fatalities caused by large trucks has increased, with fatigue cited as a factor in 20% more accidents than under the old law. Interestingly, the FMCSA’s failure to consider the obvious (more time driving = more driver fatigue) has been cited by at least two federal courts that are considering whether these regulations should be allowed to continue.

The deregulation of the trucking industry has also resulted in increased competition among trucking companies, increasing the pressure on drivers to complete their routes quickly. Finally, changes in the ways that goods carried by trucks are distributed, such as the increased use of “just-in-time” delivery, have resulted in tighter deadlines for truck drivers than was the case in the past.

Taken together, all of these factors mean that the pressures on truck drivers to ignore the law and complete their deliveries, even if they are too tired to drive safely, will only increase.

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