Young Road Workers Life Taken by Truck Driver Fatigue.

On an early Wednesday morning in springtime, Jacob Fischer was working as an assistant foreman supervising bridge repairs on a deck in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A large commercial vehicle truck with a driver suffering from truck driver fatigue plowed through a repair equipment truck and traffic cones crashing into Fischer and three other nearby roadway workers. The nearby men were seriously injured and Jacob Fischer was a fatality, survived by his wife Judy and 2 young children.

The driver of the truck had been suffering from a severe case of truck driver fatigue. Though there were multiple warning signs at the scene of the crime, two lanes that day had been closed to traffic, complete with flashing lights and cones, he had fallen asleep behind the wheel and claimed to have no recollection of the crash. He was sentenced to jail time on a charge of vehicular homicide and had his license suspended.

In a Large Truck Crash Causation study 1 in 4 truckers admitted to falling asleep at the wheel in the past month because of truck driver fatigue. All adults, no matter what occupation require 7-9 uninterrupted hours of sleep a night, while most truck drivers only average less than 5 hours. This culminates in a massive sleep debt, carrying over into the next shift, which is often scheduled too soon.

Sleep loss impacts driver performance in similar ways to alcohol. Driving performance is impaired drastically if sleep is limited to 5 hours for more than 2 consecutive nights – which most drivers often admit to suffering from. After a person has been awake for 24 hours, the effect on motor skills and reaction time etc. is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.10%.

65% of fatal crashes occur over 51 miles from base on long haul trips resulting in over 2000 accidents, while localized crashes are in the 1500’s. A staggering 41% of drivers have reported suffering from truck driver fatigue symptoms, pressure from work and inattention as factors contributing to an accident. 7% of drivers reported falling asleep as the critical reason for the crash like in the tragic case described above with Jacob Fischer.

Among the top ten driver reported factors in large truck crashes truck driver fatigue accounts for 13% percent overall. Scientific government and commercial studies continue on how much circadian rhythm, sleep disorders and other factors impact drivers and other shift workers. Many work forces and organizations have come together in developing ongoing measures to predict, mitigate, measure and prevent the instances of fatal truck driver fatigue.