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Could better pay solve the problem of truck driver fatigue?

While most of us drive simply to get where we’re going, commercial truck drivers drive for a living. In light of this and in light of the fact that they are driving the largest and most dangerous vehicles on the road, it stands to reason that truckers should be better and safer drivers than the rest of us.

Sadly, this is not the case. Truck accidents are more common than most people realize, and they tend to be fatal. Moreover, the causes of truck accidents are nearly always preventable, including things like distracted driving and truck driver fatigue. So who is ultimately to blame when the behavior of truck drivers causes fatal accidents?

Naturally, the truckers themselves play a role, but blame also rests with the trucking industry as a whole. One major problem is the way that truck drivers are compensated for their work. In many cases, truckers are only paid for the miles they travel. Any time not spent driving is unpaid, including time spent waiting for cargo to be loaded and unloaded.

The problems with this system of compensation are obvious. Because wait times, resting and sleeping are not compensated, drivers feel a lot of economic pressure to be behind the wheel as much as possible, regardless of how fatigued they feel. But the human body’s capacity for work is limited, and drivers who forego sleep are putting themselves and everyone else in serious danger.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently studying this problem. In doing so, the agency hopes to show that compensating truck drivers for the time spent waiting for cargo loading and unloading will relieve financial pressures, encourage better sleep/rest habits and ultimately reduce the number of truck accidents related to fatigued driving.

Will this effort be successful? For the sake of everyone on U.S. roads, let’s hope so.

Source: Trucking Info, “FMCSA Will Study Driver Pay Impact on Safety,” Oliver Patton, August 29, 2014

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