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Study Finds Additional Research Needed To Better Understand Driver Fatigue

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While there is some evidence that fatigue among truck drivers increases the risk of crashes, questions remain about effective ways to minimize that risk, according to a new report from the National Academics of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report, requested by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, recommended several improvements in data and research methods used by the agency to support a more comprehensive understanding of the relationships between fatigue, highway safety and long-term health.

Further study of truck driver fatigue is critical, since from 10% to 20% of the approximately 4,000 fatalities due to truck and bus crashes occur each year involve fatigue, according to the panel of experts involved in the report.

One of those policies, hours-of-service regulations for truck and bus drivers, limits the maximum number of hours drivers can work based on the assumption that drivers will have enough time to obtain adequate sleep between shifts, and therefore will be more alert while driving, the report said.

The study noted that truck drivers face stresses not only due to irregular schedules and economic pressures. They also are at substantial risk for insufficient sleep and the development of several chronic health issues, including obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, adult-onset diabetes and other conditions commonly associated with obesity. The motivation is often pressure from the truck driver’s trucking company to make their deliveries in a timely manner and make more deliveries. It is this profit over safety behavior that can lead to fatigue and dangerous trucking accidents to the motoring public.

“FMCSA should support research aimed at better understanding the factors associated with driver behavior related to fatigue and sleep deficiency, including what motivates drivers’ decisions about whether to continue driving when they feel fatigued,” the study said.

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