Professional commercial vehicle drivers have an extremely demanding and essential job of driving and delivering our goods day in and day out. However, even the most well-trained, safety-conscious professional truck driver is at risk for drowsiness-related motor vehicle crashes, particularly those working the night shift.

In the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has regulated the Hours of Service (HOS) of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, to eleven cumulative hours in a fourteen hour time frame. This is after a break of no less than ten consecutive hours. Drivers hired by carriers in “daily operation” may not exceed a seventy hour work period within any time of eight consecutive days.

But truckers and safety advocates are claiming that the Hours of Service safety rule which was strengthened in 2013 needs to be revisited by the FMSCA. And a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the Jan. 5 edition for Medical Sciences, seem to prove that point – as statistics point to more wrecks caused by fatigued commercial vehicle drivers.

Moreover, the recommended sleep hour range for adults between the age of 26 and 64 is ideally, between seven to nine consecutive hours.  However, truckers are not sleeping nearly the recommended period of time. One particular trucker was so concerned (actually, rather upset) that he felt the need to address the issue with Attorney Steven Gursten, one of the founding members of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable. Here is how the trucker explained it:

“The mandated 10-hour break doesn’t mean 10 hours of sleep. Another problem is that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates a 10-hour break, but that 10 hours does not mean 10 hours of sleep. The reality is that drivers will log their break when they are loading or unloading a shipment. Sometimes this can take as long as four hours. Furthermore, truckers, like the rest of us, are human and require food. It might take an hour or so to grab a meal. Then there is time taken to bathe. This further reduces the available time on the break. When it is all said and done, that 10 hours can easily translate into only about four to six hours of actual sleep.”

 

A driver has many requirements to fulfill, sometimes even simultaneously: reacting quickly, following speed limits and road signs, accessing road conditions and observing for potential road hazards.  A fatigued driver cannot meet all these requirements. Sometimes, fatigue drivers may even tend to overrate their abilities. When drivers fail to recognize their own fatigue (potentially going into micro sleep – when you’re really tired but force yourself to stay awake – and instead your brain shuts off and takes a nap that can last anywhere from 2-3 seconds to over 30 seconds), that’s plenty of time for a trucker to drift out of their lane and put their life and the life of others at danger.

Looking at the recent studies and statistics, I am going to side with the truckers and safety advocates and say, it’s time for the Hours of Service safety rule to be revisited by the FMSCA.