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Why are truck drivers so exhausted?

That truck driver you see on the road in San Francisco may have already been on the road for hours, but the trip alone is probably not enough to contribute to deadly fatigue. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, although truck drivers often do work as many as 14 hours a day, there are other contributors to the mind-numbing exhaustion they may suffer.

Getting enough hours of sleep is essential to remaining alert during the day, but when you sleep can be just as important as how long. Your body naturally wants to rest from midnight to 6 a.m., and again between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. When a truck driver’s schedule interrupts this cycle, it can lower alertness and performance.

Morning may be a more dangerous time for you to be in the lane next to a truck than evening, research suggests. If the truck driver just got out of bed, he or she could be at risk for sleep inertia, a condition researchers believe causes attention, mental processing, memory and reaction problems. This could be the contributor to the high number of crashes or near crashes that occur within truckers’ first hour of driving.

You need to eat right and get exercise to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. However, the nature of a truck driver's job makes this difficult. Researchers have determined that an unhealthy lifestyle is one of the major contributors to trouble staying awake in the driver’s seat. While a quick jolt of caffeine or a short nap may hold exhaustion at bay, these are temporary fixes that could interrupt sleep cycles further and play a role in devastating fatigue-related truck crashes. 

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