In 2013 alone, large commercial trucks were responsible for nearly 4,000 deaths in the United States. Recent statistics estimate that there are over two million eighteen-wheelers operating on U.S. highways each day. The number of deaths caused by large commercial trucks increased year-over-year from 2009 to 2013. Since the deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980, there has been a steady increase in the number of commercial motor carriers, and this is a trend unlikely to change.
Sadly, the most common method of payment for interstate long-haul truck drivers remains “by the mile.” Paying truck drivers “by the mile” provides the driver with an incentive to drive longer and farther as fast as possible. This translates to more pay. Thus, drivers are pressured to continue driving even when they are fatigued. One of the top ten causes of commercial truck crashes, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is fatigue.
The role of fatigue among commercial truck drivers is not a new phenomenon. As early as 1935, the National Safety Council identified driver fatigue as a leading cause of crashes, catastrophic injury, and wrongful death among the commercial trucking industry. Still today, experts in sleep science agree that driver fatigue is a real problem, and one that is under-estimated. Unfortunately, most trucking companies fail to adequately screen their drivers for sleep disorders that can lead to increased fatigue and, in turn, the heightened risk of a commercial truck crash. Additionally, while trucking companies are required to institute policies and procedures to prevent drivers from operating trucks when fatigued, the reality is that enforcement is lax. Under most circumstances, an adult requires approximately eight hours of sleep each day. (Sleepfoundation.org - Sleep Chart)
Without an adequate amount of sleep, a commercial truck driver is as dangerous and impaired as a driver who has consumed alcohol or drugs. (See https://www.nsc.org/NSCDocuments_Advocacy/Fact%20Sheets/Drowsy-Driving.pdf) Commercial drivers and non-commercial motorists should both be aware of this danger.