Staying Awake at Work: The Challenge of Truck Drivers in Florida

Many Florida crashes involving 18-wheelers and other large trucks result from truck driver mistakes that can be linked to a lack of sleep and too many hours of work.

This is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict rules regarding truck drivers' daily hours-of-service (HOS), of which there are four types:

On-duty time: This includes hours spent in job-related activities, excluding driving, which is monitored separately. On-duty activities include loading, unloading, supervising, servicing, waiting, and controlling. The maximum allowed working time is 14 consecutive hours.

Driving time: Time spent driving the truck, for which the maximum authorized time is 11 consecutive hours.
Sleeper berth time: Time spent resting or sleeping. The minimum time is 10 hours, which can be replaced by 8 hours sleeper berth and 2 hours off-duty.

Off-duty time: This is the remaining time.

The rules also state the maximum time at work per week as 60 hours per 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.

Where is the problem?
While the rules are strict, enforcement is not, or not enough. HOS monitoring is still mostly being done manually in logbooks that are easy to tamper with. Another problem is the drivers' pay system by the mile, which encourages both the employer and the driver to drive more, and longer.

What happens if a truck driver spends too much time at work?
Having spent too many hours at work several days in a row, a truck driver's focus and reaction time will collapse. Various factors intervene:

Sleep deprivation: A normal active day is 16 to 17 hours long. Beyond that, most people experience a rapid decline in performance. Sleep deprivation works cumulatively and is particularly difficult for a driver to handle because of the lack of physical movement and mental stimulation.

Circadian rhythm: Humans follow a cycle of attentiveness and sleepiness through a 24-hour period which, even if slightly different for each person, generally follows the succession of light and darkness hours. This circle cannot be entirely displaced, and certainly not abruptly. Moving working hours frequently from day to night and vice-versa has very disturbing effects.

Time-on-task fatigue: People in industry know that the productivity of a worker will vary during the hours of a shift, mostly at the beginning, when the worker needs to adjust to the task, and at the end, when fatigue and boredom set in.

Strict enforcement of HOS rules, preferably by installing electronic on-board recorders, is the only way to ensure safety for truck drivers and Florida motorists sharing the road with them.

If you have been hurt in a truck accident caused by someone else, call the Daytona Beach attorneys of Johnson & Gilbert PA today toll free at (800) 556-8890 and locally at (386) 673-4412 or fill out the form on this page for a free consultation.