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Fatigued Truckers Forced on the Road

by Jana Ritter - Published: 9/22/2014

Ever since the string of fatal accidents involving truck drivers this summer, including the fatal accident involving celebrity comedian Tracy Morgan, there has been much discussion about fatigued truck drivers, falsified log books and finally some unveiling of certain companies forcing their drivers to do so as well. On Friday, ABC News “20/20” made it the topic of their popular prime time investigative series.

Fatigued Truck Drivers

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One truck driver featured on Friday’s broadcast was 28 year-old Abe Attallah from Detroit. He told the ABC News investigators that the first problem is that drivers are only paid when the wheels are rolling. Obviously, some drivers are simply resorting to falsifying their own logbooks so they can stay out on the road and make money with the time spent in their truck. When it works like that, most people can probably agree with their logic.

Many people who aren’t commercial truck drivers can also probably relate to driving a long distance and not wanting to pull over to the side of the road for a nap when they’re only a few hours away from their destination. Certainly everyone should stop and rest if they’re fatigued enough to be a danger on the road, but perhaps every individual should be the judge of their own body and their ability to drive.

“You know, we are the most familiar and generally the safest people to drive next to on the road,” Abe Attallah said. “But there are a lot of drivers out there who purposely break their logs and, you know, manipulate the log books to get more miles in the day. They’ll show themselves sleeping, then they are really out on the road.” But even worse, is when it’s not the drivers making those decisions for themselves but their bosses pressuring them to do so. When drivers are can’t decide to take a rest break even though their body is telling them to, because they feel they’re job is at stake. Clear evidence of the predicament that many truckers face was presented on prime time TV, when 20/20 aired what Attallah actually videotaped during an incident that happened last February.

A sporadic schedule leading up to an overnight run to Wisconsin had thrown his entire body clock off, leaving him exhausted only 4 hours in the 400-mile trip. He started having trouble staying awake and knew he was drifting into what truckers call, “microsleep.” – when you’re brain shuts off for 3 to 4 seconds. He pulled over to call the dispatcher telling them he’s been awake too long and was worried about causing an accident. What ensued was an argument with three different dispatchers who made it obvious money came before safety. Although they finally sent a driver to retrieve Attallah’s load, they made it very clear that Attallah’s decision to pull over was going to cost him big time.

If you had a chance to watch Friday’s episode of 20/20, tell us your thoughts.