We all know what sleep deprivation feels like. Now imagine that, while in that sleepless fog, you are tasked with maneuvering a 50 foot-long, 80,000-pound vehicle at 65 mph.
Truck drivers often travel long distances to complete a delivery. Many may even start their route at a point far from home, meaning a commute of hours to begin a long-haul shift. Trucking companies that are intent on getting goods to their destination on time may push drivers to forgo sleep or look the other way when a driver pops a stimulant to make it through her or his shift.
More than 5,000 people are killed and 110,000 people are injured in commercial vehicle crashes every year. Up to one-half may be attributed to truck driver fatigue, according to a statistics provided in “The Sleep of Long-Haul Drivers” study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Truck drivers are not the only ones at risk of dangerous fatigue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that sleeplessness causes at least 100,000 auto accidents, 71,000 crash injuries and 1,550 traffic deaths every year.
What Happens When a Driver Does Not Sleep Enough?
The human body needs sleep, just like it needs food, water and oxygen. The body may adapt for a while, but eventually the sleep deprivation takes its toll, including:
- Reduced alertness: Losing just 90 minutes of sleep for just a single night can reduce daytime alertness by up to one-third.
- Impaired cognition: The ability to process information effectively declines with extended tiredness.
- Poor memory: Forgetfulness is common in sleep-deprived individuals.
- Distraction and lack of focus: Fatigue reduces concentration and can lead to mind wandering and distraction.
- Falling asleep: In the worse cases, a driver might fall asleep at the wheel. Even nodding off for just a moment can be enough to send the truck careening off the highway or into another vehicle.