Sleeplessness for truck drivers has always been -- and, until revolutionary policies are enacted, will always be -- a major issue for the trucking industry. There are federal guidelines in place that guard against a truck driver staying on the road for longer than he or she can safely operate the vehicle; and there are also rules that force drivers to get a certain amount of sleep between their work shifts.
However, these regulations don't seem to be going far enough and even if they were to be made more restrictive, there will always be a few rogue trucking companies that push their luck and violate the "rest rules." Fatigued drivers are at a greater risk of causing truck accidents, making the road less safe not only for them, but for unsuspecting people in cars, on bikes or walking along the road.
Sometimes a truck accident that can be attributed to a driver's lack of sleep doesn't have to happen on the road -- it can happen on company property.
That's what happened in Iowa last week, when a driver for the U.S. Post Office was attempting to pull his truck into an unloading position by means of a tractor-trailer. His big-rig truck suddenly jumped out of gear as he was pulling it with the tractor-trailer. As it wandered wildly through the parking lot, the driver tried to jump in and stop the runaway truck. He fell while attempting this stunt and his arm was run over by the truck, causing serious injuries.
There is one critical matter to consider about this accident: the safety policies regarding truck parking at this particular U.S. Post Office distribution center changed recently. It used to be that a truck driver would park their vehicle away from the loading zone; then, a separate tractor-trailer operator would usher the truck to its appropriate spot.
According to officials, now the truck driver is in charge of both the truck and the tractor-trailer operation. That has been criticized by safety officials at the complex, who feel a driver who has already been on the road for a long shift (sometimes as much as 10 hours) should not be handling two different complex vehicles when they are most exhausted.
This change has prompted four truck accidents and it appears making tired drivers operate tractor-trailers is detrimental to their safety.
Source: Des Moines Register, "Update: Employee says accident with truck driver could have been avoided," Tiffany De Masters, July 6, 2012