Truck drivers feel drowsier since new rules went into effect limiting their hours behind the wheel, according to a study by a trucking industry research group. The American Transportation Research Institute found that about two-thirds of drivers said their fatigue levels had increased since the new hours-of-service rules became effective in July.
The research institute surveyed more than 2,300 commercial truck drivers and 400 motor carriers about the impact of the rules implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The trucking industry opposed the new rules, which safety advocates hoped would reduce injuries from truck accidents caused by fatigued driving.
Among the rules is a requirement that truck drivers take a half-hour break during the first eight hours on duty. Many truck drivers reported that their workdays became longer because of this requirement. It also increased the time needed to drive to a particular destination.
More than half of the truck drivers in the survey said other rest requirements force them onto the roads during rush hour, creating a safety concern. More than 82% of the commercial truck drivers surveyed said the rules have negatively impacted their quality of life, and 66% reported that they now suffer from higher levels of fatigue. Approximately 67% said that they had suffered a decrease in pay since the rules went into effect.
Truck driver fatigue is a serious workplace safety problem for truckers. However, truck drivers can take steps to reduce drowsiness at the wheel.
Here are five tips for staying alert while driving:
- Eat a well-balanced diet that is low in fat, and avoid greasy foods and fast food that may make you drowsy.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Fatigue can be the result of excess weight, and many truck drivers suffer from obesity. A weight control program that helps drivers reach an ideal weight can help reduce drowsiness. Obesity also can contribute to sleep apnea, which also increases the risk of drowsiness while driving. Sleep apnea involves respiratory interruptions during sleep, making a person may feel sleepy the next day.
- Drink caffeine to temporarily keep sleep away, but do not depend entirely on it to drive for long periods of time. Prolonged use of caffeine can actually interfere with sleep and increase anxiety.
- Stop smoking. Smoking has been linked to conditions that cause fatigue.
- Avoid taking drugs that claim to help you stay alert. Many truck drivers take methamphetamines and other drugs to stay awake, but such drug use can be counterproductive and increase accident risks.