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Is fatigue a threat to your safety as a commercial driver?

If you are a commercial truck driver in Illinois, you might be aware of the many hazards you face on every trip. Fatigue is a significant contributor to the number of truck accidents that occur in Illinois every year. Compliance with the laws that restrict your hours of driving and learning the telltale signs of exhaustion or fatigue might keep you safe behind the wheel of your big rig.

Driver fatigue is more likely to occur if you do not get enough sleep between shifts or before a long trip. Fatigue builds over several days of insufficient sleep, making you more vulnerable toward the end of a long haul.

The body clock

Your body has a 24-hour cycle that naturally wants to sleep when it is dark and work when the sun is up. This pre-programmed cycle makes it difficult to get enough sleep during the daytime if you have to drive through the night. The time after midnight and after midday is when the body naturally winds down physical alertness and drops the body temperature in preparation for sleep. If you override that by continuing to drive, you will build up a sleep debt that makes you more vulnerable.

Work factors that can cause fatigue

While you will be more vulnerable on trips that last several days, the following aspects can bring on fatigue over the course of any driving schedule:

  • Irregular hours: Starting early after finishing late the night before will prevent you from getting sufficient, quality sleep that refreshes you.
  • Nighttime driving: Driving after dark is more tiring because this is when the body wants to rest.
  • Lack of recovery time: Sufficient rest between shifts is crucial to avoid escalating fatigue.
  • Tight schedules: Unrealistic deadlines and schedules cause stress that exacerbates fatigue.
  • Driving conditions: Circumstances that can bring on fatigue include driving in hot or wet weather, continuous engine noise, and monotonous driving on familiar roads.
  • Non-driving tasks: Loading and unloading cargo often involve heavy lifting, which can speed up the onset of fatigue.

Physical factors

You should look out for the following red flags that might indicate physical problems that could cause fatigue:

  • Health problems: Untreated medical conditions, such as diabetes, can cause you to feel exhausted and fatigued.
  • Emotional issues: Stress over personal matters, tight schedules or unrealistic deadlines can bring on fatigue sooner.
  • Fitness: If you are overweight and unfit, driving can be particularly draining.
  • Sleep disorders: Insomnia and sleep apnea will prevent you from getting sufficient, restful sleep that could help you avoid fatigue.

Fatigue could cause crashes

Being aware of the hazards of driver fatigue might help you, but if your employer's focus is firmly on profits rather than your safety, you might be up against unrealistic targets and deadlines. If this happens, fatigue and exhaustion can jeopardize your safety. However, you might find comfort in knowing that the Illinois workers compensation will cover any medical expenses and lost wages that might follow an on-the-job injury. Resources are available to assist with the claims process.

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