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Sleep disorders and truck accidents: better regulation needed

Oct 10, 2012 - Truck Accidents by

Fatigued driving can be as bad as drunk driving. In many ways, it’s as simple as that. The risk of causing motor vehicle accidents escalates inescapably when a driver has not had enough sleep.

That’s why federal regulators have worked so hard to put realistic hours-of-service limitations in place for truck drivers. And it’s why assertions by the trucking industry about fatigue and driver fitness have to be taken with a certain grain of salt.

In a meeting this week, the American Trucking Associations board of directors acknowledged that fatigue is a major issue. “Fatigue and driver health are two serious issues facing the trucking industry,” said ATA President Bill Graves.

This, we suppose, is one measure of progress. After years of resistance, the industry at last appears to be willing to concede that emerging scientific knowledge about the effects of sleep deprivation on driver performance should – pun intended – drive the regulatory process.

One issue in particular that will need to be resolved is how sleep disorders should be regulated. Sleep apnea, for example, is a much more common problem than most people realize.

If a commercial truck driver has sleep apnea, that condition can seriously disrupt the capacity to get restful sleep. After all, it involves abnormal breathing patterns that continually interrupt sleep. This means that even if a truck driver is following federal hours-of-service rules, he or she may still be terrible tired.

When that happens, the result can be a terrible truck accident caused by fatigued driving. North Carolina motorists therefore have a keen interest in making sure that this sleep disorder issue is thoroughly addressed by the regulatory process.

Source: “ATA Adopts New Position on Sleep Disorder Screening and Testing,” Truckinginfo, 10-10-12

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