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Drowsy, Fatigued, or Ill Driver Regulations & Tips

Last Updated: Nov 11, 2015

What New Drivers Need To Know About Fatigued Driving Regulations And Tips For Avoiding Drowsiness:

Chances are, that if you feel too sick, too tired, or too "impaired" to drive, you probably are.

If you start to feel like you are not capable of driving, pull it over, ASAP. The DOT says so.

For better or for worse, humans have a general internal day/night clock that controls their wake/sleep cycles (circadian rhythm) and dictates the daily pattern of alertness. In other words, most people will feel a lull in their energy and get sleepy between the hours of 12 a.m to 6 a.m., and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Research has shown that staying awake for 18 hours (in a row) can be compared to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08, or legal intoxication.

FMCSA Regulation 392.3: Ill or fatigued operator:

No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle , and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle , while the driver's ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle. Drunk, tired, and otherwise impaired drivers are unsafe drivers, and tend to make things unnecessarily dangerous for the rest of us.

However, in a case of grave emergency where the hazard to occupants of the commercial motor vehicle or other users of the highway would be increased by compliance with this section, the driver may continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle to the nearest place at which that hazard is removed. If you can't safely stop the vehicle immediately, you are allowed to get to the nearest safe area. Hopefully, you can make it that far.

Tips For Truck Drivers To Avoid Fatigue:

  • Get Enough Good Sleep, And Take A Nap:

    When possible, drive when your natural rhythm gives you the best chance to stay alert on the road, and sleep whenever you have the opportunity, according to schedule and hours-of-service. Again, for most people, the hours between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m., and 2-4 p.m. will be their highest points of fatigue.

    Without adequate sleep, the lulls in a drivers natural rhythm may be more pronounced, leaving them even less alert and more susceptible to drowsy driving.

    An FMCSA Driver Fatigue And Alertness Study determined that a driver's alertness was affected less by time-on-task, and more by time-of-day. Most people experience diminished states of alertness at night, especially after 12 a.m.

    In safety studies cited by the FMCSA , a 15-20 minute nap is one quick and easy way to rejuvenate, reinvigorate, and prevent drowsiness. Naps longer than 20 minutes tend to result in some lingering grogginess.

    Getting regular, quality sleep has also been shown to help a body stay healthy in general.

  • Eat Right and Keep A Healthy Diet:

    When possible, eat at regular times, don't skip meals, avoid going to bed hungry or immediately after eating, as any of these things can cause fatigue and abnormal cravings or eating patterns.

    Unhealthy eating and an unhealthy lifestyle, along with long working hours and sleeping problems, were shown to be the main causes of drivers falling asleep behind the wheel.

    Food & Eating Right For Truck Drivers On The Road

  • Avoid Sleep-Inducing Medication:

    Many people turn to over-the-counter (OTC) cold medications when they are feeling sick or seeking allergy relief, but many of these are labeled with warnings against driving, or operating heavy machinery, after taking them.

    Many of the OTC medications will tend to increase drowsiness and fatigue. It is important to thoroughly read labels and understand what you are taking before driving.

    In some cases, OTC medicines could cause a driver to fail a drug test, or, in the very least, cause a false positive.

    Avoid using alcohol before or while driving. Obviously.

  • Know The Signs Of Fatigue, And Avoid The "Tricks" For Staying Awake And Alert:

    Classic indicators of fatigue and drowsiness include:

    • Blurred vision, difficulty keeping eyes focused.
    • Frequent blinking, heavy eyelids.
    • Daydreaming or inability to focus on your task.
    • Yawing frequently.
    • Drifting in and out of your own lane.
    • Difficulty keeping your head up, or "nodding".

    Caffeine may give a driver an extra boost of energy, for a short period of time. Caffeine, however, can take up to 30 minutes after ingestion for the body to feel its effects.

    Additionally, excessive amounts of caffeine can cause headaches, irritability, insomnia, and nervousness. Regular caffeine users may experience a much smaller effect from caffeine. When the effects of caffeine wear off, a driver may feel even more fatigued than ever, or experience the caffeine "crash".

    Traditional "alertness tricks" like turning the radio up, opening the window, slapping your face, etc. may work for a moment or two, but are generally ineffective for maintaining alertness.

See More Driving Tips At: CMV Driving Tips - Driver Fatigue

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • CSA:

    Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

    The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle


    Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

    The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

    What Does The FMCSA Do?

    • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
    • Data and Analysis
    • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
    • Research and Technology
    • Safety Assistance
    • Support and Information Sharing


    Substance Abuse Professional

    The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.


    Department Of Transportation

    A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

    State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.


    Commercial Motor Vehicle

    A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

    • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
    • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
    • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
    • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
    • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards


    Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

    The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.


    Drive-A-Check Report

    A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

    It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

    Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.


    When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

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