Under the Trump Administration, the Transportation Department is looking to curb a longstanding rule, which requires drivers to stop driving once they hit their 14th hour on the road. In addition to mandating that commercial drivers stay off the roads once they hit this limit, they must then take 10 consecutive hours off from driving before they can get back on the road. For those drivers who are set to drive for more than 8 hours at a time, it is also mandatory that they take a 30-minute break prior to reaching the 8-hour mark. The Trump administration and trucking industry lobbyists argue that these rules, regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), go too far in regulating commercial drivers due to the overall effect that inclement weather, poor traffic, and the rules themselves have on drivers being able complete their deliveries in a timely manner.
While those lobbying for changes to the current rules state that the regulations hinder driver’s abilities to get paid and ultimately keep truck drivers off the roads, the most important thing to remember is the reason as to why these rules were adopted in the first place. Just like any job throughout the United States, it is mandatory that employees be given at least a 30-minute break for every 8 hours of work. In any job, these breaks are mandatory to ensure that employees are not overworked and as we all know, if we are overworked, our productivity takes a significant hit. With that being said, why should the rules be different for truck drivers? Because America is so dependent on ground shipping and can’t be forced to deal with delays? The point of this is to say that the data in no way supports the argument that these lobbyists are making. As PBS NewsHour reported on July 1st, “there were 4,657 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2017, a 10% increase from the year before, according to a May report issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration . . . Sixty of the truckers in these accidents were identified as ‘asleep or fatigued,’ although the National Transportation Safety Board has said this type of driver impairment is likely underreported on police crash forms.”
Ultimately, this news will mean that if federal regulations are relaxed, allowing commercial truck drivers to stay on the road longer, safety measures will come down to self-checks by the drivers. All drivers should become knowledgeable of safety tips to ensure they are keeping the roads a safe place for all drivers, no matter the importance of meeting delivery needs. Here is a pamphlet created by the CDC, which provides great tips and resources for such things as sleeping disorders, driving at night, and drowsy driving. It all comes down to staying safe on the roads. Statistics establish that truck drivers who are fatigued do pose a serious risk to other drivers, so be sure to review the material available and keep others safe.
Sleep Apnea Proves to be a Contributing Factor
As we are aware that fatigued driving already plays a major role in traffic crashes throughout the United States, it’s important for us to remember that some drivers may also be experiencing certain conditions that naturally make driving fatigued a regular part of their day. This fatigue is then only made worse by the fact that drivers are working incredibly tough jobs. An article published by Sleephelp, states that “sleeping with sleep apnea causes the same amount of fatigue as getting less than 5 hours of sleep per night . . . Sleep apnea is exacerbated and, in some cases, caused by obesity. Since truck drivers are among the most likely workers to be obese (38.6% struggled with obesity, according to one study), sleep apnea and the ensuing drowsiness is more likely to be an issue for them that it is for other people.” Similar to a recent post we wrote regarding drug use among commercial truck drivers, we are not saying that each truck driver is affected be these types of sleeping disorders or levels of fatigue; however, the statistics show that people within the industry are more likely to experience these issues. In addition to the factors likely to lead to sleep apnea, the FMCSA has also provided information regarding the overall risk factors and symptoms associated with the sleeping disorder. Overall, the FMCSA list the risk factors of sleep apnea as:
- A family history of sleep apnea
- Having a small upper airway
- Being overweight
- Having a recessed chin, small jaw, or a large overbite
- A large neck size (17 inches or greater for men, 16 inches or greater for women)
- Smoking and alcohol use
- Being age 40 or older
Additionally, according to the FMCSA, the symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring
- Morning headaches and nausea
- Gasping or choking while sleeping
- Loss of sex drive/impotence
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Irritability and/or feelings of depression
- Disturbed sleep
- Concentration and memory problems
- Frequent nighttime urination
Overall, if you have concerns that you may be afflicted by sleep apnea and its overall effects on your ability to drive, feel free to go ahead and download this form, which helps inform individuals on how to deal with the disorder. By learning about this disorder, especially by individuals within the trucking industry, it will go much farther in establishing safer roads for all.