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Driving far to drive far: Long commutes for truck drivers

Everyone knows about the dangers of driving while exhausted - how it slows reaction times and judgment, increases the potential for falling asleep behind the wheel and make serious accidents much more likely. The danger is increased when 18-wheelers are involved because of their size and weight.

Everyone who has thought about the matter at all understands these dangers, and the truck drivers are heavily regulated in the number of hours they are allowed to be on the road. Log books and other tracking methods are used to limit the hours that drivers are on the roads. But these regulations only record how long drivers are on the road in an official capacity as drivers. What about the time they are on the road before they get into their trucks?

Determining Hours on the Rod Before TruckDrivers Are on the Road

According to a recent post in Overdrive online magazine, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will be conducting a survey of truck drivers and bus drivers to determine the frequency of commutes to and from work that last more than two and a half hours. The purpose is to study the impact of longer commute times on driver fatigue and general driving safety.

The Overdrive article sites one high-profile truck accident in 2014 in which the driver had slept only four hours in the previous 33 hours while driving 800 miles right before his driving shift. Of course, the driver fell asleep during his shift, killing the other driver.

The most significant part of the problem is that he truck driver was well within his driving limits at the time of the accident.

The Problem

Although the current regulations handle hours on the road in an official capacity for drivers, they do not account for long commutes. A driver can be on the road on the way to work for any amount of hours without sleep before getting behind the wheel.

Possible Solutions

There's no way to tell what the DOT will do with the information it gathers. It's possible we will see further regulation involving time on the road before driving the truck in an official capacity. Another possibility could involve some sort of skills or awareness tests before drivers begin a new haul, to make sure they're awake and aware enough to drive safely.

Whatever direction this testing takes, the most important thing we can hope for is improved safety for everyone out on the roads. Even if one life is saved it would be worth it.

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