A recent truck accident which closed an interstate and resulted in 50,000 pounds of spilled potatoes has brought the issue of drowsy driving to the forefront. Preventing crashes by tired truckers is a top goal of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is why FMCSA passed new regulations several years ago to impose new limits on the hours a trucker could be on duty and to institute new requirements for overnight rest breaks.
FMCSA regulations were subject to controversy as some truckers expressed concerns overnight rest requirements would force truckers to be on the road during busier hours. This controversy over the new regulations was one of many illustrations of how complicated it can be to prevent drowsy driving truck crashes.
The recent accident in which the truck overturned and spilled potatoes also illustrates other challenges associated with addressing the complex problem of drowsy driving crashes.
The Problem of Truck Accidents Caused by Fatigue
Trucking Info reports the driver who overturned his truck was likely within his hours of service and had not been violating the maximum driving time rules or cheating on his logs recording his on-duty time. While it is not certain whether the driver obeyed the rules or not, the preliminary information suggested he had not been in violation.
Even when drivers take required rest breaks and follow FMCSA regulations, it is still possible for truckers to get sleepy – especially when they drive at night. In many situations, drivers end up pulling over on the side of the road to rest. In this case, the driver told state troopers responding to the scene of the crash that he had not stopped to sleep in his truck because he had heard about truckers being arrested for pulling off the road to sleep.
In the state the trucker was in, the highway patrol had previously announced it was going to crack down on vehicles illegally parked along interstate highways in order to reduce crashes caused by trucks parked on highway road shoulders. Parked or disabled vehicles had been reported to cause as many as 20 percent of crash deaths on interstate highways.
A local news report found the real reason for the crackdown in that particular area was because a political donor had complained about the presence of tractor-trailers on road shoulders near his winery, there are problems with truckers parking along interstates nationwide. The Wall Street Journal reports the lack of safe parking for truckers is a big contributing factor to why there are so many drowsy driving accidents.
According to the WSJ, illegal parking on highway road shoulders and freeway off-ramps was so common, officials in 48 states responding to a Federal Highway Administration Survey could list the sites of locations where trucks were likely to be pulled over despite prohibitions against stopping. It is clearly an issue which needs to be addressed in order to prevent truck accidents from happening.