Advocates for reducing the risk of trucking accidents in Texas are hailing a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to decline review of a petition against a new federal mandate requiring electronic log devices on all large trucks.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association asked the court to consider its argument against the mandate, which is requiring the devices be installed on all trucks by December.
These devices will automatically track how many hours a truck driver is on the road. Currently and in the past, hours of service have been manually logged. But the concern—which has been proven on a wide scale—is that trucking companies and individual drivers try to fudge those numbers, making it so they can squeeze in more drive time, cover more miles, and complete more deliveries as a means to boost their bottom line. But those profits come at a great price to those with whom those truckers share the road, because fatigued drivers put themselves and everyone else at risk.
Fatigued Trucking a Serious Problem
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports nearly 4,100 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks in 2014, and 116,000 were injured—an increase when compared to recent years.
Specifically in Texas, there were 4,891 fatal crashes in the state, with 531 of those involving large trucks. That's nearly 11 percent of the total, but 13 percent of the total number of fatal large truck crashes nationally. This is the highest number by far when compared with any other state, and it's significantly out-sized when you consider the population in Texas is only about 8.5 percent of the national total.
The FMCSA explains trucker fatigue is often the result of lack of enough sleep, extended work hours and strenuous work. One study conducted by the agency on large truck crashes revealed 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle crashes involved a trucker who was fatigued at the time of the collision.
Federal Hours of Service Rules
For drivers of property-carrying commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds (and those carrying hazardous materials requiring a placard), the federal government has strict limitations on drive time. Those rules include:
- Maximum 11 hours of driving time after 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- Prohibition from driving after 14 hours of being on duty, regardless of whether all that time was spent on the road, after having 10 consecutive hours off. Having more than 10 hours off does not extend the 14-hour limit.
- Required rest breaks of 30 minutes every eight hours.
These are smart rules for any motorist, but it's imperative—and required of—truckers.
Tips to Reduce Trucker Fatigue
Fatigue can set in even when a trucker is operating a vehicle within those required limits. In order to reduce potential fatigue, the FMCSA recommends:
- Getting enough sleep before you drive. One's body is naturally tired between the hours of 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Take a nap.
- Avoid any medications or medicines that might cause drowsiness.
- Recognize the signs of sleep deprivation. Someone who is awake for 18 hours has the equivalent impairment of someone with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08—the same level as what is considered legally drunk.
- Don't think you can "trick" your body into being more awake by drinking lots of coffee or opening the windows or playing loud music. Those tactics may work in the short-term, but the only way to maintain alertness is to get proper rest.