Drowsy driving is an all too common cause of accidents. It is not always easy to quantify like the blood alcohol concentration of an impaired driver. This means that the number of accidents caused by fatigued drivers is underreported. This can also present difficulties in proving the negligence of another drowsy driver caused an accident.
In an attempt to limit the number of semi truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the number of hours that truck drivers can spend behind the wheel. The agency has worked with sleep researchers in setting rules for the drivers of commercial motor vehicles.
Most effective sleep schedule to avoid semi truck accidents
Sleep researcher, Gregory Belenky of Washington State University completed the recent sleep study for the FMCSA. He compared two 5-hour sleep periods from 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. and then later in the day from 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. with consolidated sleep at night and during the day.
What he discovered was that the 10-hour nighttime sleep period was the best. This much was not surprising. But the split schedule was better than the consolidated daytime sleep.
The study involved 52 volunteers, who slept in a laboratory. They simulated a five-day workweek, sleeping and then driving in a simulator, as well as other tests of their motor skills.
The conclusions from the study were the same as several others completed in the last five years. Can the findings help reduce the number of trucking accidents and serious tractor-trailer injuries? How do the current hours-of-service rules line up with the findings?
Commercial motor vehicle drivers can drive behind the wheel for 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Drivers using a sleeper berth are able to break up their time off. They must have at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 hour period in the sleeper berth or off duty.
The findings from the study show that drivers may do better with the flexibility to take two breaks of more equal time. According to the findings of the study that would be preferred to an eight-hour break during daytime hours.
To ensure that driver’s breaks include overnights, the federal agency proposed new restart rules that will go into effect this summer.
Under the new “34-hour restart” rule, drivers must take a break between workweeks that includes two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. of home terminal time. In addition, drivers will need to take a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving.
The FMCSA recognizes that drowsy driving is a problem and continues to look for ways to reduce the number of fatigued drivers on the roads. Yet with tight deadlines and health issues, such as high blood pressure and sleep apnea many truckers still struggle to stay awake behind the wheel.
In an 18-wheeler crash, finding the cause of the accident can prove difficult. A consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney is a start along the path to uncovering whether negligence played a role in the crash. A lawyer will also explain your rights and fight to ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.