The National Transportation Safety Board has conducted studies, which concluded “driver fatigue could be significantly implicated in up to 20% of all large truck accident fatalities and 7% of all accidents involving both fatalities and injuries”. In fact, one-third of drivers questioned in a survey admitted they had fallen asleep at the wheel in the last 12 months. Research shows driver fatigue is most notable between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., followed by mid-afternoon. Drivers are under constant pressure to meet delivery deadlines and profit margins can be quite slim, thus forcing drivers to continue driving when fatigued.
Federal and state regulations require some interstate truck drivers to maintain a record of their status either by using an approved log grid or an automatic on-board recording device to maintain trucking safety. These types of logs often do not provide a reliable means of tracking the number of hours a truck driver is on the road and many truck companies are not strict when it comes to making sure their drivers comply with service limits and therefore the requirements for trucking safety.
Fortunately, there are now new technology advances in trucking safety that can help alert a truck driver when he/she may be falling asleep. For example, Lane Departure Warning Systems (LDWS) monitor the location of the vehicle within the lane and alert the driver when the vehicle drifts from the lane. Other systems that monitor trucking safety of the vehicle, such as steering position monitors, as well as systems that monitor driver behavior, such as one system that measures the driver’s eyelid closure, have also been developed to detect fatigue. These on-board devices can signal the drivers that their alertness is diminishing, both helping to increase their alertness in the short term and prompting them to seek opportunities to stop and rest. Unfortunately, these devices are not yet mandated to replace the manual driving logs.