The business demands of the transit industry pressure California truck drivers to put in long hours behind the wheel. As a result, people in this occupation have a heightened risk of drowsy driving. Their fatigue makes them sleepy, which reduces their ability to react to traffic or make fast decisions. Their reduced awareness and reaction times combined with the sheer size and weight of 18-wheelers have a great potential to produce catastrophic accidents.
Why truck drivers suffer fatigue
Transportation regulations only allow truck drivers to drive for 11 consecutive hours if they have been off duty for the previous 10 hours. However, this does not guarantee that a truck driver actually got any sleep prior to starting an 11-hour shift.
Even when truckers have gotten some sleep, their fatigue can arise for other reasons. The long hours on the road may simply wear them down mentally and physically. Medications taken to manage various health conditions can cause drowsiness. Illnesses, like a bad cold or influenza, naturally make people feel very fatigued. Night shifts on the road also add to the risk of truck driver fatigue. Some people never get used to being awake during the night.
How catastrophic accidents happen
A truck driver impaired by fatigue cannot pay attention properly. This means that the driver may react too slowly to unexpected traffic conditions. A motor vehicle accident that might have been relatively minor becomes serious because the trucker slams into a vehicle instead of braking or swerving.
Truckers must also stay alert for exits or roadway changes, like two lanes compressing into one lane. A fatigued trucker may lose track of these variables. Mistakes caused by lack of awareness include changing lanes without checking blind spots or speeding due to failing to notice a new speed limit sign.