Truck accidents claim thousands of lives and cause hundreds of thousands of injuries each year, and fatigue is often a contributory factor. Most Tennessee truck drivers are paid based on the number of miles they drive rather than the amount of time they spend behind the wheel, which gives them an incentive to remain on the road for as long as possible. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has hours of service regulations that cap the length of truck driver shifts to prevent fatigue-related accidents, but they have recently been softened in response to industry pressure.
The dangers of truck driver fatigue
Fatigue and alcohol affect the body in much the same way. Drivers who are fatigued have slower reactions, are less aware of their surroundings and are prone to errors in judgement, which is extremely dangerous when the vehicles they are operating can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. Studies have shown that going without sleep for 24 hours impairs drivers as much as consuming enough alcohol to violate every state’s drunk driving laws.
Hours of service regulations
The FMCSA’s hours of service regulations help to prevent fatigue-related truck accidents by limiting truck driver shifts to 11 hours and requiring at least 10 hours of rest between shifts. However, the rules were softened in 2020 in response to lobbying efforts form industry groups like the American Trucking Associations. The revised hours of service regulations allow truck drivers to remain on the road for two additional hours when weather conditions are poor and for up to three additional hours when their routes are confined to a 150-mile area.
Profits over safety
Fatigued truck drivers pose a great danger to all road users, but the rules that are designed to prevent commercial vehicle accidents caused by drowsiness have recently been relaxed. This suggests that government officials bowed to industry pressure and have chosen to place profits over safety.