July 14, 2017

Doctors Confirm Fatigue & Marijuana as the Biggest Challenges for Drivers

Doctors Confirm Fatigue & Marijuana as the biggest challenges for commercial drivers

Driver fatigue is dangerous; there is no doubt about that. FMCSA recognizes driver fatigue as one of the major causes of road accidents.

On May 17, 2017, in a session of Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) in Alberta, Dr. Melissa Snider-Adler, chief medical review officer for DriverCheck, reiterated the link between road accidents and driver fatigue. She highlighted the fact that approximately 20% of vehicle collisions happen because of driver fatigue.

Dr. Melissa also explained that staying awake for 17 hours is an equivalent of having a blood-alcohol level of .05, which increases to .1 after being awake for 24 hours.

According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania in a collaborative sponsorship from FMCSA and American Transportation Research Institute, 28% of commercial truck drivers were found to be suffering from sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea suffer from fatigue, cardiovascular problems, an increased neck size, being overweight, and daytime sleepiness.

Dr. Melissa says, “Almost every aspect of your body can be affected by sleep apnea.”

Sleep apnea may also lead to drowsiness, which, in turn, increases the probability of road accidents.

Why is Fatigue Management so Important?

Addressing this common problem, Dr. Melissa Snider-Adler shared that for people to function properly, a consistent bedtime routine is very important along with a healthy diet and regular exercise. According to her recommendation, a minimum of 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep is necessary for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Fatigue management is important for any company to improve the overall quality of service and reduce the risk of road accidents. Here are three major reasons why it is imperative to have a strategy in place to manage driver fatigue.

Reduces Safety Risks

Drivers suffering from fatigue are more likely to doze off behind the wheel than drivers with a healthy sleep schedule. It can also result in delayed reaction time and bad hand-eye coordination.

If a company has a proper fatigue-management strategy in place, its drivers are going to be more focused and attentive on the road. As a result, fewer accidents are likely to happen, which improves the overall safety rating of the fleets.

Increased Productivity

Sleep apnea and driver fatigue can negatively impact the overall productivity of commercial drivers. Addressing driver fatigue can help increase their productivity levels as well as improve their efficiency.

Cost Reduction

Having your drivers treated for sleep apnea and fatigue can help reduce the claims for short-term disability and reduce overall health-plan costs. A U.S. trucking company managed to generate a return on investment in the form of savings on medical costs, accident reduction, and reduced turnover by a sleep-apnea screening and treatment program.

According to studies, following changes were observed in drivers after being treated for sleep:

  • Decrease in collisions by 30 %
  • Cost reduction at 48%
  • Increase in driver retention rate by 60%  

Marijuana Legalization Negatively Affects Truckers

Dr. Melissa also highlighted the fact that legalization of marijuana isn’t a solution for truck drivers. Snider-Adler explained that although marijuana is sometimes prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, there is little evidence that proves its effectiveness.

She opposed the use of drugs and pointed out the potential dangers of using marijuana in a workplace environment.

According to various studies highlighted by Snider-Adler:

  • States, like Colorado, which legalized the use of marijuana, saw an increase of 203% from the year 2006 to 2012 for people who tested positive for THC and were involved in fatal vehicle collisions.  
  • 5.5% of drivers tested positive for cannabis in a random roadside test conducted in B.C.

Dr. Melissa believes that companies should address the issue of drug usage in the same manner as they would with the use of alcohol and have a zero tolerance policy for it. She recommends companies to use random testing as a determining measure while developing a management strategy for the drug use, as it would help identify the use of various drugs in a shorter time span.

Driver Safety & Electronic Logging Devices

Mike Millian, president of the PMTC, highlighted the importance of electronic logging devices and said that although it may be frightening for some, implementation of ELDs will have its benefits.

He said, “I’m not going to lie to you, there will be pain. But once your drivers get used to it and accustomed to it, there will be time savings.”

Electronic logging devices, aka ELDs, are going to play a major role in the future of America’s trucking industry. FMCSA’s main goal is to increase driver safety and eliminate road accidents. DOT ‘Road to Zero’ campaign is also about that. FMCSA estimates that the ELD mandate would be able to save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries every year.

Request a free KeepTruckin ELD demo now if you are interested in the KeepTruckin ELD solution. We have several features, such as driver scorecards, driver alerts, vehicle diagnostics, and HOS alerts that can significantly improve the safety of your fleets.

If you have any questions, give us a call at 855-434-ELOG or send us an email at support@keeptruckin.com.

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