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Trucks, planes, trains: Ohio operators, others seriously fatigued

A major new study published by the National Sleep Foundation is sounding the alarm on transportation professionals, such as commercial truck drivers, stating that their sleep deprivation puts them at a much greater risk of being involved in a truck accident.

Transportation professionals in Ohio and elsewhere get less sleep than the average American, according to the study. Twenty-six percent of train operators and 23 percent of pilots reported that their sleepiness affected their on-the-job performance at least one time a week. Some of these professionals, including 20 percent of pilots and 14 percent of big-rig truck drivers, said their fatigue led to a serious error or near-miss.

Because the margin of error in these transportation professions is relatively small, sleep, alertness and awareness are all vital to job performance and job safety. Truck crashes, for example, are obviously a much higher risk when truck drivers are sleepy and dozing off while operating their vehicles.

Fatigued transportation professionals have already come under scrutiny and more stringent regulations in recent years, including new rules governing the work schedules of both commercial truckers and pilots. Last December, new pilot regulations required minimum 10-hour breaks between shifts, trumping the previous minimum standard of eight hours.

Meanwhile, tractor-trailer drivers have had their maximum work week reduced to 70 hours from the previous maximum of 82 hours.

Critics of the regulations defend long-haul truckers by insisting that the new regulations only make driving more difficult, forcing them to drive during rush hour and in congestion. They also claim that truckers know their bodies and when they are sleepy, negating the need for further regulations.

But this recent study provides hard evidence that many truckers believe their fatigue has led to potentially dangerous situations.

Source: Washington Times, "Not getting enough rest a problem for operators of planes, trains, trucks," Ben Wolfgang, March 6, 2012

Tags: truck accident, truck crashes

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