by Sandy Long
We are hearing more and more about driver fatigue as being epidemic in the trucking industry. Sleep apnea is the disease de jour that is being blamed for our so-called fatigue and there is a current push to make more regulations addressing our health due to fatigue beyond the HOS. This even though fatigue is not listed as causing accidents except in very rare cases. Fatigue has many causes.
MedlinePlus Medical Dictionary defines fatigue as; “Fatigue is different from drowsiness. In general, drowsiness is feeling the need to sleep, while fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. Drowsiness and apathy (a feeling of indifference or not caring about what happens) can be symptoms of fatigue. Fatigue can be a normal and important response to physical exertion, emotional stress, boredom, or lack of sleep. However, it can also be a nonspecific sign of a more serious psychological or physical disorder.”
“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.” Dale Carnegie (1888-1955).
Truck drivers are faced with great worry due to the dangerousness of our jobs, stress added from family, shippers, receivers, and traffic. We are commonly frustrated by traffic jams, road construction, and unreasonable appointment times and hold ups due to weather. We often resent not only all of the above fatigue causers, but also dispatchers and brokers, waiting unpaid at docks or for loads and because we are not home when we want to be. Is it any wonder we are fatigued?
“Men weary as much of not doing the things they want to do as of doing the things they do not want to do.” Eric Hoffer (1902-1983).
We might get fatigued from doing things we enjoy. We all know the feeling of fatigue that we feel after a long day enjoying our favorite hobbies, sports or exercise. We might be fatigued after these things, but it is a happy, contented fatigue. On the other hand, we all also know the fatigue that we feel in doing our job. Having to sit and wait for a call on the cb radio for a door assignment for hours and not being able to take a nap or leave the truck even to use the facilities if they are even provided where we are can lead to major fatigue. Then the fatigue leaves a bad taste and we exhibit irritability or a ‘don’t give a dern’ attitude.
People in any job or situation can experience fatigue, not only truckers. How often have you taken a trip with your family where the kids are cranky, the spouse/partner left something at the house and the traffic is heavy. When you arrive where you are going, you are no longer fatigued if everyone calms down. Those of you who are not drivers most likely experience fatigue after a long day at the office only to find renewed energy when you walk out the door. It is the same with truckers, after we get away from that slow shipper or out of rush hour traffic, we find our second wind and energy….usually.
Some diseases can cause fatigue. Medline Medical Dictionary cites the following as causing fatigue: There are many possible physical and psychological causes of fatigue. Some of the more common are:
Underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid
Use of alcohol or illegal drugs like cocaine, especially with regular use
Fatigue can also accompany the following illnesses:
Anorexia or other eating disorders
Arthritis, including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
Autoimmune diseases such as lupus
Chronic liver or kidney disease
Infection, especially one that takes a long time to recover from or treat such as
Certain medications may also cause drowsiness or fatigue, including antihistamines for allergies, blood pressure medicines, sleeping pills, steroids, and diuretics.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that starts with flu-like symptoms and lasts for 6 months or more. All other possible causes of fatigue are eliminated before this diagnosis is made. Little relieves CFS, including rest.
If you are experiencing fatigue without knowing why, check with your doctor and get it checked out. It may just be dealing with our day-to-day work situations, or it may be something that can be corrected. Either way, fatigue is a big issue now in trucking.
Ya’ll be safe!