Safety Alert:

Chip Hauler Falls Asleep at the Wheel

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On an early morning winter day in the Lake States Region, a driver was hauling sawmill chips to a paper mill. The driver was on his last trip after a long night shift. He was 15 miles from his delivery destination when the incident occurred. Weather conditions were cold and clear, and the roads were in good condition.

Personal Characteristics:

The 32 year-old driver had more than 10 years of experience. He had made this trip multiple times during his employment with the trucking company. The driver had a clean driving record both professionally and personally.

Unsafe Act and Condition:

The driver fell asleep while approaching a “T” intersection where two state roads joined.


The truck driver ran a stop sign of an uncontrolled intersection and crossed the road into the ditch. As he crossed the intersection, he awoke and turned the cab slightly to the right. This action likely avoided a serious injury as the trailer had a glancing blow to the cab when the truck rolled over, spilling its contents into the right-of-way. No other vehicles were involved in the accident.


The driver received a minor blow to the head as the trailer hit the cab. He was treated at a local hospital and received several stitches.

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Recommended for Corrections:

Your body can’t fight the need to sleep. Chemicals build up in your brain until they reach a tipping point and you will fall asleep. There are preventative measures that can prevent fatigued driving.

Causes of drowsy driving include lack of quality sleep, driving when you would normally be sleeping, and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

Symptoms of fatigue include:

• Yawning

• Sore or heavy eyes

• Slower reaction times

• Daydreaming

• Changes in driving speed

• Impatience

• Stiffness and cramps

How to beat driver fatigue:

• Get a good night’s sleep

• Take regular breaks

• Take a 15-minute power nap if you feel fatigued

• Don’t drink alcohol before your trip

• Limit caffeine

• Cool the truck interior

• Eat proper and well-balanced meals

• Stay hydrated

Source: Forest Resources Association