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Following the rules doesn't prevent truck driver fatigue

How many times have you gotten behind the wheel of your car after yawning and wishing you had another cup of coffee, energy drink or soda? Perhaps more times than you can count. You may know this isn't the safest way to drive, but your trips may have been relatively short. After all, you were driving locally, not across the country or even across Connecticut.

Long haul truck drivers also get behind the wheel under the same conditions, but they drive much longer distances and are on the road for extended periods. This makes them dangerous.

The rules don't prevent fatigue

The federal government puts limits on how long a trucker can drive in a day. The "hours of service" regulations attempt to ensure that tired truck drivers aren't on the road. While those rules mean well, they actually have nothing to do with whether a driver gets on the road without adequate sleep.

The rules can require rest breaks and a certain amount of time off the road in order to sleep, but that doesn't mean it will happen. Truck drivers suffer from sleep deprivation for the same reasons everyone else does. Whether a crying baby, insomnia or a stomach issue, among other things, kept them awake, they start their driving with a sleep deficit. However, they followed the rules and did not drive for the specified amount of time. Does that mean they are fit to drive safely? Of course not.

What could help

Trucking companies may be able to help their drivers fight fatigue the right way -- through lifestyle. Dietary changes, exercise and making sleep a priority will do more to combat putting tired truck drivers on the road than simply teaching them how to use an electronic logbook.

Getting good sleep is a challenge for most adults under good circumstances. Sleeping in noisy or questionably safe places on the side of the road doesn't encourage solid slumber. Some people have trouble shutting off their brains when they close their eyes and others have medical conditions that make sleep elusive on occasion. Learning to deal with these issues could help truck drivers get more restful sleep and reduce the possibility of drowsy driving.

Encountering a fatigued truck driver

More than likely, you encounter sleepy truckers daily without incident. However, if you do encounter a fatigued truck driver who causes an accident in which you suffer injuries, pursuing compensation may involve determining whether he or she suffered from fatigue at the time of the crash. While it is important to review logbooks for hours of service violations, doing so doesn't tell the whole story. Further investigation into the sleeping habits of the driver may be needed.

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