A recent study at the University of Kentucky revealed an interesting correlation surrounding fatigue-related crashes involving over the road (OTR) commercial motor vehicle drivers. UK researchers found that the farther a drowsy trucker is from a rest area (such as a truck stop or weigh station), the greater the chance that he would be involved in an accident.
Researchers analyzed Kentucky commercial motor vehicle crash data from 2005 to 2014. They identified 7,538 incidents where the driver was responsible. Of that number, 284 were attributed to truck driver fatigue. UK researchers limited their analysis to major roadways with at least one rest area, weigh station with a rest haven, or truck stop within the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Designated National Truck Network.
Researchers found that driver at-fault crashes attributed to fatigue were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to occur on roadways where the nearest rest options were 20 to 40 miles from the crash site. And if driver rest options were more than 40 miles away, the odds of a likely crash jumped to nearly seven times.
Researchers conclude there is a pressing need for increased truck parking on Kentucky’s portion of the federally designated national network for trucks. The UK study also outlined the need for expanding existing rest stops to accommodate more parking options for trucks. The authors of the study said the need for additional truck parking is particularly important on parkways.
This study was completed before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) recent safety mandate. Effective within the past year, it requires all OTR drivers to use Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) to monitor their compliance with regulations governing time behind the wheel, and to ensure that they comply with minimum “downtime” they must take away from driving when hauling cargo. No data is yet available to determine whether ELD is indeed serving its purpose of keeping our highways safer by decreasing truck driver fatigue. But the University of Kentucky data does raise a good point: When rest opportunities are fewer and farther between, truckers who try to go 15 or 20 extra miles at the end of a long driving session do it at their (and our) risk when they push to get an extra half-hour’s worth of highway in their rearview mirror.
It also appears that truckers may be more willing to take that extra risk when driving conditions are ideal. The researchers found a higher probability of CMV driver-at-fault fatigue-related crashes at night (when there’s less traffic) and on dry pavement (so they can travel faster). They also found that our “scenic parkways” were more likely than interstates to have fewer rest stops and, therefore, more CMV driver fatigue crashes.
In spite of the FMCSA’s best intentions of monitoring driver hours through ELD WIFI-enabled technology, the fact that there are too few drivers and too much to deliver still means that the transporting companies place constant pressure on OTR drivers to be out on the road hauling freight.
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