The Problem of Driver Fatigue: NJ Semi-Truck Crashes When Driver Falls Asleep

Photo of truck accidentIn late April, a semi-truck driving in South Brunswick ran off the road and took out a traffic light. Police said the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. Fortunately, no one was injured. But the crash shines a light on a very real problem – driver fatigue. This is especially problematic for drivers of semi-trucks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 25 drivers aged 18 or older admits to having fallen asleep behind the wheel within the last 30 days. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 72,000 accidents, 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths resulted from drowsy driving in 2013. It is believed that these numbers may underestimate the issue.

Drowsy Driving and Semi-Trucks

Truck drivers are at high risk for driver fatigue based on the nature of the work. For the trucking industry, time is money, and drivers are essentially incentivized due to pay structures (dollars per mile, for example, or dollars per cargo delivery) to get their cargo to its destination as quickly as possible. And despite hours of service rules regarding how long drivers are allowed to drive without rest, too often, truck drivers drive far longer than they should.

When a truck driver falls asleep, the risks to the driver and others nearby are extremely high. Essentially, a sleeping truck driver turns a semi into an 80,000-pound steel missile traveling at highway speeds. It’s easy to see how this scenario could end in a catastrophic truck accident.

Tips for Truckers to Avoid Fatigue

  1. Re-evaluate your sleep schedule. Adapt your schedule to fit your trucking needs more appropriately. And don’t be afraid to stop for short sleep breaks. NASA studies show that even a 40-minute nap can increase performance and alertness by significant amounts.
  2. Adjust your diet. Your food is your energy. It can be difficult to find proper nutrition out on the road, but even little changes can make a world of difference. Go for a tuna or chicken sandwich instead of a burger, for example.
  3. Limit use of caffeine and alcohol.
  4. Keep hydrated – hydration has positive effects on all aspects of your health and can help prevent fatigue.

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