Background: Trucks represent 6% of all vehicles, but truck crashes account for 20% of road deaths in Israel, even though travel distances are usually short (<200 km) and overnight travel is uncommon.
Objective: To determine occupational and individual predictors of fatigue, falling asleep at the wheel, and involvement in crashes with injuries and deaths in truck drivers.
Setting and methods: We carried out field interviews of 160 port truck drivers regarding driver characteristics, workplace and driving conditions, employer-employee relations, medical conditions, sleep quality and fatigue, falling asleep at the wheel, and involvement in road crashes.
Results: One day before interview, 38.1% of the drivers had worked more than the 12 hour legal limit. More than 30% reported falling asleep at the wheel recently, and 13% had prior involvement in a sleep related crash. Sixty seven (41.9%) drivers said that their employer forced them to work beyond the legal 12 hour daily limit. Involvement in a crash with casualties was associated with poor sleep quality (adjusted OR = 2.9; p = 0.042) and frequent difficulty finding parking when tired (OR = 3.7; p = 0.049). Self assessment of fatigue underestimated fatigue from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Questionnaire. However fatigue occurred in many drivers without sleep problems and many crashes occurred without fatigue.
Conclusions: Prevention requires measures to reduce work stresses, screening drivers, speed control, and modal shifts. The work risks and adverse outcomes of truck drivers in large countries with long overnight journeys occur in a small country with small distances, relatively short work journeys, and little overnight travel.