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Report looks at data on fatigue in truck drivers

With concerns about truck driver fatigue and road safety in California and throughout the country increasing among regulators and law enforcement, a satisfactory solution has not yet been found for measuring the condition. Drivers' Fourth Amendment rights to avoid an unreasonable search and seizure were found in 2011 to have been violated by Minnesota State Police efforts to work from a checklist. One of the most critical problems is that determining fatigue is often subjective. However, the issue is also one that affects truck drivers' long-term health.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has prepared a report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation that looked at current research into the topic. Among other findings, it reported that there is little data on owner-operators and small carriers compared to large. The report also stated that routine medical exams did not tend to detect conditions such as sleep apnea that might lead to fatigue while hours of service limitations failed to ensure drivers got the rest they needed.

The report recommended further study and improved methods for gathering data. In the meantime, a representative of the Western States Trucking Association said he understood the need for the federal regulation which deals with fatigue, because it allows law enforcement to pull truckers too tired to stand and with other obvious symptoms off the road.

Fatigue is a common factor in big rig accidents. Many drivers do not realize that certain levels of drowsiness can be the equivalent of driving drunk. Furthermore, truck accidents can be particularly severe due to the size of the vehicles. A person might sustain a permanent disability in a truck accident. If this occurs, the company that the driver works for might be liable as well. A person injured in such a situation may want to discuss the accident and potential compensation with a lawyer.

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