Causes Of Truck Driver Fatigue

Personal Injury Dan - August 3, 2021
Fatigued commercial truck driver, yawning and sleepy while driving.

Commercial drivers have taxing jobs that can cause fatigue. If an overly tired truck driver causes a crash and you suffer injuries, discuss your legal rights and options with a truck accident attorney right away.

The last thing you’ll want to encounter on the road is 40 tons (or more) of a truck being operated by an individual falling asleep behind the wheel. Because they have to pull freight across long distances, truckers face a higher risk of suffering fatigue and exhaustion than most other commercial drivers.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration(FMCSA), roughly 13% of commercial drivers were registered as being fatigued at the time of their crashes. Even after a good night’s sleep, a whole host of contributing factors could lead to a trucker suffering fatigue and causing an accident.

Understand the most common causes of truck driver fatigue and what you should do in the event that they lead to an accident. To discuss your specific situation, reach out to a truck accident attorney directly.

Driving Too Long

As alluded to previously, commercial truckers are often expected to haul freight over very long distances across the country for several hours at a time. Per the Department of Transportation, truckers are able to work an upward limit of 70 hours a week at a maximum.

That means that trucking companies could expect them to drive 30 hours more than (or almost double) the average 40-hour full-time workweek. If drivers follow schedules requiring them to neglect healthy sleeping patterns, they are at a higher risk of fatigue and of causing truck accidents and serious injuries, both for themselves and the motorists sharing the road with them.

Sleep Apnea/Sleep Disorders

Hectic, long work schedules can lead to unhealthy sleeping patterns, and those unhealthy sleeping patterns can exacerbate sleep disorders that can worsen over time if left untreated. One of the most prevalent among commercial truck drivers is OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea.

The American Sleep Association estimates that anywhere from 17-28% (or up to 1.1 million) active commercial truck drivers could suffer from OSA. Sleep apnea disorders disrupt healthy circadian sleeping rhythms and breathing patterns through the night and could potentially be deadly in certain cases.

Besides that direct deadliness, OSA has also been shown to be indirectly comorbid with narcolepsy, another sleep disorder that can lead to heavy daytime drowsiness. You do not want to be behind the wheel or operating any machinery when going through heavy narcoleptic episodes.

It’s a commercial driver’s responsibility to keep these issues in check, otherwise, they may be found negligent by a court or jury.


Even though DUIs are frequently spoken of in the context of abusing alcohol or recreational drugs, sometimes drowsy driving can even occur with proper prescription drug use. An unfortunate side effect of certain medications may be drowsiness, and a whole host of factors could contribute to that drowsiness:

  • Dosage of the medication
  • Time of day the medication is being taken
  • If the medication is interacting with alcohol or other drugs

Always adhere to taking medications per your provider’s approved prescription. If you suspect that the medication is causing unwanted drowsiness, then consult your physician. They can determine the potential causes of that drowsiness, whether or not you’d need to change your current dosage, and whether or not you’d need to switch to a different prescription altogether. In any event, it is your legal responsibility as a trucker to get that drowsiness in order.


It’s not rocket science that overworking can lead to compounding stress, and stress is anathema to productivity, healthiness, and happiness. According to a study by Mental Health America, stress can collectively cost over $500 billion per year in lost productivity.

Seek Help from a Truck Accident Attorney

If you suffered injuries due to a negligent fatigued commercial trucker, Blackburn & Green can help you seek justice and compensation for your losses. Get in touch with our legal team to arrange a free case review.

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