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Sleep disorders and the danger of fatigued truck drivers

Truck drivers face enormous pressure to travel long distances in a short amount of time. As a result, truck drivers can face an incentive to work long hours, even when they are so tired that they pose a risk to themselves or other drivers on the road. For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other agencies have rules in place that limit the amount of time truck drivers can be on the road without rest.

Another factor that can lead to dangerously fatigued driving is a sleep disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder that will cause disruptions in sleep and lead to fatigue during daylight hours. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has argued that the absence of a test to determine whether a driver is suffering from sleep apnea can lead to serious injury and fatalities due to a truck crash. The FMCSA, in association with the Federal Railroad Administration issued a notice that the agencies are seeking to change the current rules for drivers to receive tests, evaluations and treatment for the disorder.

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, more than 72,000 accidents were due to a fatigued truck driver. Companies will have to adapt if there is an eventual rule that the drivers be tested for sleep apnea and companies will have greater liability. A study involving more than 1,600 drivers with the disorder stated that they were more vulnerable to an accident. Those who did not receive treatment were significantly greater dangers on the road.

Drivers might also be reluctant to receive a diagnosis unless they are compelled to do so under the law for fear that a diagnosis could threaten their employment. Also, companies might be reluctant to implement any requirements before they have to due to the costs involved and risks of litigation. While these issues are still under consideration on how they will be dealt with, it is still a current problem that must be thought about whenever a person is out on the road with a truck. After a truck accident, those who were affected need to make sure a full police investigation is conducted to see if sleep issues were a possible cause. They should also speak to a legal professional to discuss a case to pursue compensation.

Source: Business Insurance, "Proposed trucker rule targets driver fatigue," Donna Mahoney, April 24, 2016

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