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What Happens if a Truck Driver Skips Sleep to Meet His Schedule?

What Happens if a Truck Driver Skips Sleep to Meet His Schedule?

Auto, Aviation & Transportation

Hitting the road with barely any sleep is a common reality for many truck drivers. This fatigue has severe consequences for both the driver and other road users.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a truck accident caused by drowsy driving, know that you have options. Connect with experienced truck accident lawyers who can fight for your rights and help you rebuild your life.

Why Is Sleep Important for Truck Drivers?

Just like everyone else, truck drivers need adequate sleep to function at their best. Sleep is essential for cognitive function, alertness, reaction time, and decision-making.

Sleep regulates the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. When drivers are sleep-deprived, their alertness plummets, increasing the likelihood of microsleeps, which are brief periods of unconsciousness lasting a few seconds.

These microsleeps can feel like sudden lapses in concentration, making drivers oblivious to their surroundings and potentially missing critical traffic signals or hazards.

Also, it takes longer for a sleep-deprived driver to perceive danger and react appropriately, which means such drivers are very likely to become accident victims or the liable party in an accident.

How Do Truck Drivers Stay Awake For So Long?

Over the years, truck drivers have utilized many different methods to keep sleep at bay in order to extend their driving hours. Some strategies are more effective than others, and some may even have detrimental health consequences. Here are a few:

Overdosing on Caffeine

Coffee is a popular choice for its stimulating properties. While caffeine can temporarily improve alertness, its effects wear off, and excessive consumption can lead to anxiety, tremors, and disrupted sleep patterns.

Adjusting Driving Habits

Drivers may attempt to stay alert by turning up the radio, singing along to music, or opening a window for fresh air.  

Napping

Short naps, ideally between 20 and 30 minutes, are the safest and most effective way to combat drowsiness. Naps allow for a brief period of restorative sleep, improving alertness and cognitive function significantly. 

However, finding safe and designated rest areas for napping can be a challenge for these drivers, especially when they are working on such tight schedules.

Taking Stimulants

Some drivers may resort to prescription stimulants to stay awake, but this can be a dangerous practice with the potential for addiction and serious side effects such as, serious health risks like heart problems and psychosis in the long run.

The Consequences of a Truck Driver Skipping Sleep to Meet Their Schedule

The consequences of a truck driver skipping sleep to meet their schedule are far-reaching and can be categorized into three main areas:

Compromised Safety

Drowsy driving is a leading cause of truck accidents in the United States. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) tells us that fatigue contributed to an estimated 11% of fatal truck crashes in 2020. 

The accidents that are caused by drowsy driving can lead to significant cargo loss or damage, which, by extension, will result in economic losses for both the trucking company and the businesses relying on the delivery.

Health Problems

Chronic sleep deprivation takes a toll on the driver’s physical and mental health. It can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression. 

The stress and fatigue associated with sleep deprivation can also weaken the immune system, making drivers more susceptible to illnesses.

Bad Tempers

Sleep deprivation makes even the most patient driver short-tempered and prone to frustration. This can lead to risky maneuvers, aggressive driving, and potentially getting into altercations with other motorists.

Severe Exhaustion

You might think skipping sleep to meet a deadline buys you more time. But the more you push yourself, the more exhausted you get. 

Eventually, even a few hours of sleep won’t be enough to feel truly rested. This cycle of sleep deprivation and exhaustion just makes it harder to be a safe driver in the long run.