What is the role of fatigue in commercial truck wrecks?

One study published last year found that fatigue was a primary factor is serious collisions involving commercial vehicles. So what are the underlying causes?

Commercial drivers who do not get adequate rest and the condition of sleep apnea were found to increase sleepiness behind the wheel. Researchers evaluated how sleep periods of short duration while commercial drivers spent a week off at home and their diagnoses of sleep apnea affected their tendencies toward sleepiness behind the wheel.

Both drivers at high and low risk of apnea episodes took part in the study. When there was an uptick in subjective sleepiness, there was a subsequent correlation with shorter periods of sleep, but the severity of their apneic episodes did not rise accordingly.

An increase in objective fatigue and lapses in performance, e.g., tracking lanes poorly, was linked to short sleep periods. Again, the expected association with an increase in the severity of the episodes of sleep apnea did not appear as significantly.

When the apnea was severe, with no fewer than 30 episodes per hour, and the subjects slept for less than five hours a night, the effect on objective sleepiness was roughly the same. The study ultimately determined that while both a lack of long periods of sleep and sleep apnea do impact the performance of commercial truckers, missing out on the “40 winks” had a greater impact.

These findings are important, as about 5,600 individuals die in collisions with commercial trucks every year. Falling asleep behind the wheel is certainly one cause of catastrophic highway crashes, and needs to be curtailed. If you were the victim of a collision with a big rig, whether the trucker was asleep or simply distracted, you have a right to seek compensation.

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Impaired Performance in Commercial Drivers,” Allan I. Pack, et al, accessed Aug. 12, 2016