Sleep-Deprived Truck Drivers Are Causing Accidents: Can Congress Help?

The trucking industry keeps our world moving with a little over 70% of freight transportation happening in the U.S. alone, according to the American Trucking Association(ATA). With so many goods needing transportation, and so many different businesses depending on these shipments to come in on time for their day-to-day operations, it’s no wonder truck drivers lose sleep trying to stay on schedule. 

In 2017, registered trucks clocked hundreds of billions of miles traveled in transporting goods. The ATA reports that about 3.5 million truckers were employed to transport these goods. Living their lives on the roads, it’s easy for truck drivers to become sleep deprived, which can increase the risks for people sharing the road. 

Nearly 4,000 people died in crashes involving heavy vehiclesin 2015 alone. Although there are rules in place for drivers, they’re often neglected, which is resulting in more accidents caused by truck drivers. With these drivers playing such an important role in our nation’s economy, congress should take measures to ensure drivers are taken care of and that people stay safe on the road.

Truck Driver Accidents 

The American Automobile Association reports that losing even two to three hours of sleep can almost double a driver’s chance of getting into a car accident. As dangerous as tired driving is, 35% of people behind the wheel drive without getting enough sleep, which can have fatal consequences. In fact, 20% of all deadly car accidents involved a sleepy driver. These statistics make it clear that recognizing the signs of fatigued drivingis an essential driving skill today.

Driving with very little sleep is not uncommon in high-stress jobs that don’t provide you with the flexibility needed to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Truckers aren’t alone; those in the medical field can be frequently overworked, such as nurses who often work consecutive 12-hour shifts and get less than six hours of sleep on average. This indicates that this isn’t necessarily an issue solely for the trucking industry, but these types of working conditions can make truckers a risk on the road.

Understanding the risks of drowsy driving, the trucking industry has regulations in place that are intended to ensure their drivers are getting enough sleep during long hauls. However, the pressure to get their shipments in on time can often cause them to ignore these rules and carry on their route. At other times, drivers may set apart time to sleep but have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which can result in less sleep than they should be getting.

One common cause of poor sleep is sleep apnea, which is a sleeping order that causes breathing to stop and start while sleeping. This can result in very disruptive and inconsistent sleep. In a survey of over 800 truck drivers by the American Transportation Research Institute, 85% of drivers suffered from obstructive sleep apnea(OSA). This is a contributor to the low levels of sleep truck drivers are getting on their rest stops, and it should be addressed.

Congress’ Role in Reducing Accidents

There are a lot of ways congress could help improve the circumstances of truck drivers. For one, legalizing cannabis could potentially help improve sleep for the large number of truck drivers suffering from OSA. Research has shown that medical marijuana may be able to help treat this condition, but federal regulations prevent extensive research from being conducted on this topic. Changing these laws could help ensure truck drivers get the amount of sleep they need to do their job well. 

Another way to help give truck drivers better working conditions is by imposing regulations for better pay and benefits. Doing so could give truck drivers the financial stability to take the time off they need to recover between long hauls. This would allow them to come back to work recharged, rested, and ready for their next trip. Truck driving is a difficult, high-pressure job that requires drivers to spend lots of time on the road, away from their families. They deserve to be well compensated for their sacrifices.

Finally, instead of succumbing to the lobbying of the trucking industryfor reduced safety regulations, legislators could increase the number of safety regulations for truck drivers. Regulations ensure that drivers are not being overworked, that they have time to rest, and that their load size and weight is in a safe range. Although this can often cause the trucking industry to lose profits, it can help lower the money taxpayers are paying towards emergency services for highway accidents.

Sleep-deprived truck drivers cause many deadly accidents on the road and pose risks to other drivers. It’s a problem, but it’s a problem that congress could create or adjust laws to address. It’s congress’ job to ensure citizens are taken care of, and helping tighten those rules offers many benefits to truck drivers as well as the public. The trucking industry provides an extremely necessary service that helps tie the country together, and ensuring they’re taken care of will serve people in every state.

Avery PhillipsAvery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.

Cover image source: Pexels


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