7 Common Signs of Trucker Fatigue and How to Address Them on the Road

A tired driver is as dangerous as a drunk driver. Don’t believe it? The National Safety Council reports that a driver who has gone for longer than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol level of 0.08%, which is the U.S. legal limit.

Sleep-deprived drivers have slower reaction times and are less aware of their surroundings. This can lead to an accident that can be fatal for the driver and other road users. In addition to the human costs, accidents have a major economic impact, too. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that crashes caused by fatigue can cost society as much as $109 billion annually. And this doesn’t include damage to property.

Truck driver fatigue

If you drive professionally, own or operate a fleet, or manage truck drivers, you need to know how everyone can stay in their lane and avoid fatigue. Below are the most common signs of truck driver fatigue and tips for avoiding it.

Signs Of Truck Driver Fatigue

What to watch for behind the wheel:

  1. Yawning and Heavy Eyes: Excessive yawning and eyes that appear heavy or droopy are the first indications of a fatigued driver. Yawning is the body’s way of trying to stay awake and alert, but its positive effects are not long-lasting.

Tip: Pull over to a safe stop and take a nap. Fresh air and even light exercise can also help with alertness.  

  1. Difficulty Staying in the Lane: A clear sign of driver fatigue is a trucker drifting out of their lane. This is incredibly dangerous as the possibility of a collision is almost certain.

Tip: Pull over at a rest stop, walk around for a few minutes, stretch your legs, or engage in brief physical activity.

  1. Impaired Reaction Time: Slow reaction times will reduce your ability to avoid possible hazards and accidents. This is easily spotted if lane drifting starts to occur, turnoffs or street signs are missed, or you brake late for lights or vehicles ahead.

Tip: If you notice your reaction times slowing, pull over at a safe location or rest area and take a short nap. This can help restore your reaction time.

  1. Inability to Recall the Last Few Miles: Have you ever struggled to remember driving a particular stretch of road? Distracted driving or lack or memory recall can be a sign of fatigue, and it’s important to recognize it.

Tip: As this is a potential sign of fatigue, stopping somewhere safe is important. Have an energy drink or caffeinated beverage to restore alertness. Take a moment to reset before moving on with your journey.

  1. Frequent Blinking and Head Nodding: Blinking often or head nodding is probably one of the more obvious signs of fatigue. It can lead to momentary lapses in control of your vehicle, which can have catastrophic consequences.

Tip: You should address this immediately by pulling over to a safe stop. Have a nap to restore your ability to stay awake. Short periods of resting and closing your eyes can significantly improve your function.

  1. Mood Changes: Impatience and irritability are some of the early signs of a tired driver. This change in mood can lead to dangerous decisions behind the wheel or increased incidents of road rage and irresponsible behavior.

Tip: Pull over at a stop if you are impatient or your mood is deteriorating. Use this time to reset and engage in a calming activity. Breathing exercises can reduce stress and calm the mind.

  1. Microsleeps (Brief Episodes of Sleep): A microsleep is where you nod off for a few seconds whilst driving. These episodes of microsleep are incredibly dangerous and will most likely lead to an accident.

Tip: If you experience microsleep episodes, immediately pull over in a safe spot where you can sleep and recharge. Only set off once you feel completely alert and rested.

While these are temporary solutions for alleviating fatigue on the road, the best approach is prevention and early detection. Here are a few additional tips and technologies to assist with driver fatigue:

Additional Tips for Addressing Trucker Fatigue

  • Maintain Regular Sleep: You should sleep for approximately 6 – 8 hours before a driving shift and maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Diet and Hydration: Eating healthy foods will give our body the nutrition it needs to perform. Remaining hydrated helps your body function with ease. Good nutrition and hydration can help to combat fatigue.
  • Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise keeps you fit and can contribute to a better overall state of being. Doing short, easy exercises at stops along your route can increase blood flow and maintain a clear mind.
  • Utilize Breaks Effectively: Your breaks should be used to rest sufficiently to prevent fatigue. A short walk, fresh air and a nap can boost your awareness. Be sure to take breaks after a few hours of driving.
  • Co-Driver: Consider having a co-driver who can partner with you on long-haul journeys. This will ensure that both drivers get an adequate amount of rest.

Fatigue Detection Technologies

 Fatigue detection technology makes truck accident prevention easier. Truckers can use the following tech to help them stay on the road.

 Fatigue meters: This technology can be used in accordance with service logs. Using the period that a driver was on duty, the meter predicts a sleep pattern for the driver. It assists in tracking if you have had sufficient rest between shifts.

Wearables: Smartwatches and fitness devices can detect fatigue by measuring your body’s “battery”. Newer technology, such as smart eyeglasses and headwear, can also be employed to track a lack of energy.

Smartphone tests: Measure reaction time through a psychomotor vigilance task (PVT). This test measures your alertness and response times.

Crash-Avoidance Technology: Safety technology such as lane departure warnings and drowsiness alerts detect patterns of fatigue and alert you that it’s time for a break.

Staying Safe on The Road

 Every trick driver will suffer from fatigue at some point in their career. However, knowing how to spot the signs and take action quickly can be a lifesaver. While there are regulations in place that limit driver’s time behind the wheel, good truck drivers listen to their bodies and take a break when needed. Lives depend on it.


 What are the main signs of truck driver fatigue?

Yawning, droopy eyes, slowed response time, irritability, forgetfulness, and loss of concentration.

Why is driving with fatigue so dangerous?

Fatigued drivers exhibit the same behavior as drivers who are over the legal blood alcohol limit.  This makes accidents more likely.

What technology helps to avoid fatigue-related accidents?

Lane departure warnings, drowsiness alerts, fatigue meters, wearables that track bodily function, and smartphone alertness tests can all assist.