Tractor trailers pose a serious risk to drivers and passengers on the roadway due to their large sizes and heavy loads. These inherent dangers are intensified when the operator of the truck is exhausted and suffering from lack of sleep. In an effort to address this concern and promote driver safety, two US Department of Transportation agencies began calling for stricter safety standards for truck drivers. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently announced that they will no longer pursue these rule changes, despite the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) continuous call for stricter safety screening.
What is sleep apnea and how does it affect truck operators?
Sleep apnea is a condition affecting millions of people in the United States. This sleep disorder causes individuals to stop breathing for short periods of time throughout the night. Depending on the individual, the paused breathing may last from a few seconds to a few minutes before normal breathing starts again. According to the National Institutes of Health, the condition disrupts sleep, causing an individual to move from a state of deep slumber into a lighter level of sleep. This results in poor sleep quality, which can lead to excessive sleepiness and fatigue during times of the day when the individual is awake.
Sleep apnea creates a problem for truck drivers because it interferes with their ability to get adequate rest. As a result, during times when they need to be alert and attentive to their truck and the road, they may experience sleepiness, and possibly even dose off while driving.
Proposing increased safety standards for truck drivers
The NTSB first began calling for increased screening of truck drivers in 2009. These efforts were strengthened after the agency concluded that sleep apnea was a causal factor in 10 of the trucking accidents investigated over a 17-year period. The agency determined, with trucking accident investigations, operators were only found to have sleep apnea after causing serious accidents. As such, the NTSB began calling for agencies to create programs that proactively identify transportation workers who face higher risk of sleep apnea.
In an official statement, the FMCSA and FRA stated that the decision to withdraw the proposal was based on a belief that current safety standards adequately address concerns regarding sleep apnea and tractor trailer drivers.
Fatigued truck driving continues to be a serious problem on Florida roadways. When these operators fail to get enough rest, they put vehicle drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at serious risk of harm. At Yeboah Law Group, our professional Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyers diligently fight to secure compensation for injured victims. Contact us today for legal representation you can trust. Call us at 1-800-TELL-SAM or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
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