The sleep of long-haul truck drivers

N Engl J Med. 1997 Sep 11;337(11):755-61. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199709113371106.


Background: Fatigue and sleep deprivation are important safety issues for long-haul truck drivers.

Methods: We conducted round-the-clock electrophysiologic and performance monitoring of four groups of 20 male truck drivers who were carrying revenue-producing loads. We compared four driving schedules, two in the United States (five 10-hour trips of day driving beginning about the same time each day or of night driving beginning about 2 hours earlier each day) and two in Canada (four 13-hour trips of late-night-to-morning driving beginning at about the same time each evening or of afternoon-to-night driving beginning 1 hour later each day).

Results: Drivers averaged 5.18 hours in bed per. day and 4.78 hours of electrophysiologically verified sleep per day over the five-day study (range, 3.83 hours of sleep for those on the steady 13-hour night schedule to 5.38 hours of sleep for those on the steady 10-hour day schedule). These values compared with a mean (+/-SD) self-reported ideal amount of sleep of 7.1+/-1 hours a day. For 35 drivers (44 percent), naps augmented the sleep obtained by an average of 0.45+/-0.31 hour. No crashes or other vehicle mishaps occurred. Two drivers had undiagnosed sleep apnea, as detected by polysomnography. Two other drivers had one episode each of stage 1 sleep while driving, as detected by electroencephalography. Forty-five drivers (56 percent) had at least 1 six-minute interval of drowsiness while driving, as judged by analysis of video recordings of their faces; 1067 of the 1989 six-minute segments (54 percent) showing drowsy drivers involved just eight drivers.

Conclusions: Long-haul truck drivers in this study obtained less sleep than is required for alertness on the job. The greatest vulnerability to sleep or sleep-like states is in the late night and early morning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Electrophysiology
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Sleep* / physiology
  • Transportation*
  • United States
  • Workload