Today’s Pickup: Sleepy America putting lives at risk

Forty-three percent of Americans say they do not get enough sleep each day, making them tired at work.

Good day,

Survey results released last week by the National Safety Council tell a sobering tale of just how tired American workers are, and how that fatigue could be impacting safety on the job.

According the survey, 43% of Americans say they do not get enough sleep to mitigate critical risks that can jeopardize safety at work and on the roads, including the ability to think clearly, make informed decisions and be productive, NSC reported. Of those who responded, 81% identified their jobs as positions that require sustained attention or are physically or cognitively demanding such as driving a vehicle or working at a construction site.

The report, Fatigue in the Workplace: Causes & Consequences of Employee Fatigue, is available on NSC’s website.

The survey found 97% of Americans say they have at least one of the leading nine risk factors for fatigue, which include working at night or in the early morning, working long shifts without regular breaks, working more than 50 hours each week and enduring long commutes. Seventy-six percent say they feel tired at work, 53% feel less productive, and 44% have trouble focusing.

Fatigued employees are more likely to make safety critical errors that could lead to injury, such as crashing their vehicle, NSC said.

“These findings are a literal wake-up call: When we’re tired, we can put ourselves and others at risk,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “We hope Americans recognize that impairment stems not just from alcohol and drugs, but lack of restorative rest – fitness for duty starts with getting a good night’s sleep.”

Fatigue impacts most Americans and, in turn, every workforce – too often resulting in disaster. An estimated 13% of workplace injuries could be attributed to fatigue and 21% of all fatal car crashes  are attributed to a drowsy driver, NSC said.

Did you know?

According to National Safety Council research, a person who loses two hours of sleep from a normal eight-hour sleep schedule may be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.


“It is vital that Congress ensure that any new technology is used to make transportation safer and more effective, not used to put workers at risk on the job or destroy livelihoods.”

James P. Hoffa, Teamsters president, on news that an autonomous driving bill in Congress does not pertain to commercial trucks

In other news:

Autonomous driving bill excludes big rigs

The U.S. House Energy and Committee last week approached a bill to speed up the development of autonomous cars, but it applies only to vehicles under 10,000 pounds. (Reuters)

Environmental gains are quicker with electric vans and trucks

As England prepares to ban the sale of gas and diesel cars and trucks by 2040, it’s been noted that environmental gains are achieved quicker by implementing electric vans and trucks. (BBC)

Trucks being used more often for human smuggling

The recent smuggling case in Texas that killed 10 immigrants was not the first time a truck had been used in human trafficking. But how often are trucks used? Border patrol says it’s on the rise. (Associated Press)

Finding hidden LTL capacity

Machine learning and artificial intelligence could the be key unlocking hidden capacity in less-than-truckload operations. (Cerasis)

ArcBest posts 2Q gains

ArcBest, parent company of ABF Freight Systems, posted gains across most business segments when it announced its second-quarter earnings. (DC Velocity)

Final Thoughts

For an industry so focused on safety, driver fatigue remains an obstacle. According to a National Safety Council survey, 43% of American say they do not get enough sleep. For a truck driver, the irregular hours and push for miles can make that even more difficult.  

Hammer down everyone!

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.