Truck driver fatigue due to excessive work hours is not just a major cause of tractor trailer accidents in the United States

Truck driver fatigue due to excessive work hours is not just a major cause of tractor trailer accidents in the United States. Australia, with its vast open spaces, has the same problem with tractor trailer driver fatigue. Similarly, operator fatigue is a widespread problem causing problems in many industries.

In a recent case in Australia, long haul tractor trailer truck driver Darri Haynes hadn’t slept in two days of driving fueled by methamphetamine before a collision with another tractor trailer in which he was incinerated. In a test case on truck driver safety, a judge in New South Wales said the case “painted a sobering picture of the risk for long distance truck drivers of driving when fatigued… fatigue significantly impaired his [Haynes’] ability to drive safely.” The judge also criticized the company for failing to ensure driver schedules allowed enough time for breaks and sleep or provide training on the self-management of fatigue and alertness.

Examples of fatigue causing disastrous accidents and incidents are common in a wide broad range of industries including trucking, aviation, rail, sea-borne cargo, mining, manufacturing, building, hospitality and healthcare.

  • A recent study by the National Research Council on airline pilot fatigue reports that long commutes to their base of operations may significantly contribute to safety problems. According to the report, about 20% of airline pilots lives at least 750 miles from their starting point for work, while 6% of pilots listed a primary residence at least 1,500 miles from the airline base where they begin flights. Congress directed the council to study the issue in response to a regional airline crash that killed 50 people in February 2009 near Buffalo, N.Y. The flight's co-pilot had commuted overnight from her home near Seattle to her airline's base in Newark, N.J., in order to make the flight. The flight's captain, who regularly commuted from Florida to Newark, had spent the night before the flight in an airport crew lounge where sleeping was discouraged.
  • A hospital intern or nurse working a double-shift accidentally may often a patient the wrong drug or dosage. Related article.
  • The Exxon Valdez oil spill was caused primarily by the failure of the third mate to properly maneuver the vessel because of fatigue and excessive workload.
  • The Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown was caused by inaction by shift workers in the early hours of the morning; it led to a catastrophic nuclear incident that has made the entire city and region uninhabitable.
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