It’s that time of year again when the kids go back to school and professional football returns to the airwaves. It is a great time of year for football fans who have been starved of their favorite sport since the snows of February were falling outside. For professional truck drivers though, the return of football could mean a serious problem: driving while drowsy.
A study conducted by Lytx, a technology company that provides video cameras to the trucking industry, reveals that the likelihood of truck drivers getting behind the wheel while drowsy spikes with the onset of football season. In fairness, their study looked only at CDL drivers working for private waste haulers. Is it fair to apply the data to the entire trucking industry?
The Numbers Are Getting Worse
Lytx data compiled between 2012 and 2016 showed a 53% increase in accidents involving drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel between August and November. Astoundingly, the risk of drowsy driving spiked by 70% on Mondays and Tuesdays during football season, as compared to the rest of the year. The data shows a much more serious problem when numbers from 2016 are isolated.
During November of 2016, the data showed a 112% increase in falling asleep at the wheel and drowsy driving as compared to the rest of the year. The increase from Mondays and Tuesdays was a whopping 170%. Lytx makes a correlation between those higher numbers and the likelihood of drivers staying up late to watch football games on Sunday and Monday nights.
Ardent football fans know that games are getting longer and longer with every passing season. Between more clock stoppages and a greater number of commercials interrupting gameplay after every score, a game starting at eight o’clock can easily go to midnight. This may be too long for truck drivers who have already spent 10 to 14 hours on duty.
Again, the Lytx study was isolated to waste hauler drivers. But what if the numbers reflect the entire professional truck driving industry? That would suggest a significant number of big rig drivers taking to the highways on Mondays and Tuesdays despite not getting enough sleep.
Employers Must Stress Safety
Let us assume the data is consistent across the entire CDL spectrum. What can be done about it? It is not a matter of more regulations at either the federal or state level, as explained by C.R. England.
Federal and state regulations already control how much time the driver can spend working and how much time must be spent resting – whether in the cab of the truck, at home, or in a hotel. There is nothing more to be done from a regulatory standpoint. It is not as though police officers can be assigned to truck drivers to make sure they are sleeping.
No, preventing drivers from taking to the road while drowsy is really up to better safety training among the nation’s carriers. It’s a matter of routinely reminding drivers to get enough sleep; it’s about reminding them during football season that safety is more important than the final score.
It would seem that the Lytx data draws a strong correlation between drowsy driving and professional football. If truck drivers are indeed staying up too late to watch games on TV, such behavior would seem to corroborate the data. So unless the trucking industry can convince television networks and football teams to play their games earlier in the day, not much more can be done other than continuing to stress to carriers and drivers the importance of getting enough sleep.