What is the problem?
Driving a truck, bus, or car is a task that requires complex human
interaction and a driver’s complete attention and proficient skill. All
too often, however, drivers are impaired by fatigue stemming from
insufficient or poor-quality sleep. Fatigue degrades a person’s ability
to stay awake, alert, and attentive to the demands of safely controlling
a vehicle. Drivers may not recognize the effects of fatigue until it’s
Drowsy driving does not leave telltale
signs and, as a result, it is widely
believed to be underreported on police
crash forms. A 2014 study by the AAA
Foundation for Traffic Safety used a set
of more detailed crash investigations
and a statistical technique known as
multiple imputation to estimate that
about 21 percent of fatal crashes
involved a drowsy driver.
Fatigue is often the result of insufficient
sleep. But even when individuals
have enough time to get rest, other
issues—such as medical conditions,
unpredictable or inverted work schedules, living environment, and
personal choices—can affect their ability to obtain quality sleep.
Fatigue is particularly dangerous because it may result in risky
behavior, such as poor judgment and decision-making, slowed
reaction times, and loss of situational awareness and control.
The traveling public can unknowingly be placed at risk because a
fatigued commercial truck or bus operator cannot safely execute his
or her duties.
What can be done?
Fatigue is a manageable threat to
transportation safety that can be
mitigated by a combination of sciencebased
fatigue risk management programs,
and individual responsibility. We
have issued more than 200 safety
recommendations addressing fatiguerelated
problems across all modes of
To address the problem of fatigue,
the following actions should be taken:
- Establish fatigue risk management programs and continually
monitor their success to reduce the risks for personnel performing
safety-critical tasks. Fatigue risk management programs take a
comprehensive, tailored approach to addressing the problem of
fatigue within an industry or workplace. Such programs include
policies or practices to address scheduling, attendance, education,
medical screening and treatment, personal responsibility during
nonwork periods, task and workload issues, rest environments,
commuting, and napping.
- Incorporate scientifically based fatigue mitigation strategies into
the hours-of-service regulations for passenger-carrying drivers who
operate during the nighttime window of circadian low.
- Require motor carriers to adopt fatigue management programs
based on the North American Fatigue Management Program.
- Develop and implement a plan to deploy in-vehicle technologies
that reduce fatigue-related crashes.
- Implement a program to identify commercial drivers at high risk
for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and require that those drivers
show evidence that they’ve been appropriately evaluated and treated
before granting them unrestricted medical certification. Disseminate
guidance for commercial drivers, employers, and physicians about
identifying and treating OSA.
- Provide certified medical examiners easy access to the Federal
Motor Carrier Administration’s 2016 Medical Review Board guidance
- Get the proper amount of sleep. Recognize that older adults need
7 to 9 hours of sleep per night; teens need 8 to 10 hours for optimal
health and safety.
- Talk to your doctor if you think you may have a health condition or
use medicines that affect your alertness. Some medical conditions,
such as OSA, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome may interfere
with sleep and can lead to fatigue. Certain prescription and overthe-
counter medicines can also cause drowsiness.
- Do not drive beyond the federally mandated hours-of-service
limits or when you are sleepy, and take breaks as needed.
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