A 56 year-old male long-haul semi-truck driver fell asleep while driving. It was approximately 4:15 AM and the driver was hauling a load of canned tomatoes. He was approximately 225 miles away from his destination driving in the right hand lane, on a four lane interstate traveling south, when he fell asleep. Upon falling asleep, the unit travelled to the right, across the rumble strip and the emergency lane, behind a guardrail, down an embankment and crashed into a grove of trees. A man driving a car behind the semi truck saw dust rise from the crash, stopped, called emergency medical services and spoke with the driver. The driver stated that he fell asleep. EMS arrived six minutes later, spoke with the driver who was trapped and restated that he fell asleep while driving. The driver died 20 minutes later while emergency services tried to extricate him from the semi.

To prevent future occurrences of similar incidents, the following recommendations have been made:

Recommendation No. 1: Semi tractor-trailer drivers should be trained to recognize signs of fatigue and drowsiness and when to seek appropriate rest areas.

Recommendation No. 2: Employers should establish worker safety programs that include recommendations for addressing sleepiness and fatigue.

Recommendation No. 3: Commercial transportation companies should explore the types of drowsy-type driver alert systems that are available on the market and consider providing their drivers with this type of technology.

Recommendation No. 4: Manufacturers of semi trucks should explore the possibility of incorporating driver alert systems technology (e.g., face recognition, vibrating steering wheels and seats, audible and visual alarms) to assist drivers during driving operations.

Recommendation No. 5: Policy makers should consider using Fatality Assessment Control and Evaluation reports to inform federal and state transportation regulatory policy making activities.

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A summary of this case is available as the additional file listed below.

11KY009_Summary.pdf (49 kB)
Case Summary