Professional truck drivers travel tens of thousands of miles each year. They have long workdays with very few breaks. Fatigue plus back and neck injuries go with the job, but these problems are difficult to treat and harder to live with.
Studies show that truck drivers are not able to assess their own levels of fatigue accurately, and they grow frustrated with ongoing pain. Do these problems make them a danger to other drivers?
Causes of injuries
Back and neck injuries are common to workers in certain professions, and driving a truck for a living is one of them. Many drivers are also responsible for lifting and stowing cargo; there is also a lot of bending and stooping. Activities like these combined with extended periods of sitting can lead to injuries that are painful but do not always show up in diagnostic testing. Further, drowsiness may come into play as an escape from constant discomfort.
In 2011, in an effort to reduce driver fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made changes to existing regulations and the “hours of service” rules. Within the first eight hours of a shift, a driver must now take a 30-minute rest break. Another update targets the 34-hour rest period, better known as the “restart.” A driver is required to use the restart once every seven days, and this must include two rest periods between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
Accidents waiting to happen
As any driver knows, fatigue is stealthy. It creeps up without warning, affecting judgement, reflexes and vision. The operator may begin to yawn, daydream and perhaps fail to assess emergency situations properly. The eyelids become heavy, the truck begins to drift between lanes and trouble lies ahead. Back pain, neck pain and fatigue may all play a part in erratic driving behavior, which can certainly be a danger to the trucker and to other motorists in the vicinity.