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Safety Measures Combat Dangers of Tired Truck Drivers

Everybody knows that driving while intoxicated is a safety concern. Yet, according to a recent study by medical researchers at Harvard University, driving while fatigued is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. The study suggests that if you have not slept in 24 hours, you are just as impaired as if you were legally drunk. This is because, when you are drowsy, your judgment is impaired.

According to the study, there are approximately 2 million Americans who fall asleep at the wheel of a vehicle and that drowsy drivers get into 1.9 million crashes a year. The annual death toll from these accidents nears 7,500, and serious injuries number 50,000.

There is little dispute that people are aware of potentially fatal consequences of fatigued workers in certain lines of work, which accounts for regulations or standards for medical residents, pilots, truckers and astronauts. In the commercial trucking industry, there are regulations regarding the hours a driver may drive, and how much off time is required between shifts. Yet, government regulations can only go so far. That is why a direct appeal to commercial trucking companies is necessary.

Most truck drivers are paid by the mile, but one way to improve commercial vehicle safety is to pay truckers by the hour. Getting paid by the mile not only encourages truckers to speed in order to make money, but it also discourages drivers from pulling off the roadway and getting some sleep when they are fatigued and at risk for causing accidents. There is no dispute that a truck operated by a driver who falls asleep is a powerful missile aimed, indiscriminately, at innocent victims.

This solution, although rare, is not unheard of. At least one trucking company, Dupre’ Logistics, pays its drivers hourly. About 15 years ago, the company found that even though it complied with government regulations, its drivers continued to be fatigued while driving and were therefore, accident prone. To keep drivers alert, the company moved to a schedule that would allow them shorter drives. To save drivers from losing income, the company agreed to pay its drivers hourly instead of by the mile.

By all accounts, the plan worked. The company’s crash rate plummeted. As an added bonus, the company continues to attract experienced, reliable drivers because people want to work there. Making the decision to change resulted in not only a win for drivers, the company, but most importantly, the American motoring public.