For decades, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has had Hours of Service (HoS) rules on the books restricting how long commercial drivers could legally drive a vehicle during a shift and an individual workweek. These rules came to be in part because businesses often demand the impossible from their drivers. Also, drivers often push themselves when it isn’t safe to do so in order to make a deadline for a client or an employer.

With the current temporary suspension of the Hours of Service rules for certain commercial truck drivers, the public must be self-aware of the increased risks of commercial vehicle crashes they face from exhausted truck drivers.

What does fatigue do to your ability to drive?

The longer it has been since you have had a good night’s sleep, the less optimally your brain functions. Sleep is critical for mental function, clarity and focus. When someone has gone 16 hours or longer without rest, they may start to notice the negative effects that their exhaustion has on their job performance and cognitive functions.

Exhaustion makes it much harder for you to focus. Distraction becomes far more tempting when you feel fatigued. Not only will you have a hard time focusing on the road when tired, but you will also have a longer reaction time when you do focus and notice something wrong ahead of your vehicle. Increased reaction times are dangerous enough when they affect the drivers of smaller passenger vehicles.

Commercial truckers drive big rigs that already take longer to stop than smaller passenger vehicles. When they experience performance issues due to fatigue, the delay in reaction time could be the difference between avoiding and causing a serious collision. Beyond that, there is also the risk that the commercial driver could fall asleep at the wheel, essentially losing control of the vehicle.

Anyone who believes that the truck driver who caused a crash with them was fatigued or exhausted at the time of the crash should alert law enforcement of that suspicion at the scene of the accident and familiarize themselves better with their rights under the law.