Dr. Shelby Harris
| | |

Do shifting schedules impact commercial drivers’ ability to drive safely or their DOT physicals?

Commercial drivers can find jobs at any hour of the day or night, which can be great for flexibility. But it can be disruptive when schedules are constantly changing. These safe driving enthusiasts discuss the impacts of shifting schedules on commercial drivers’ operational safety and health below.

Gjorge Stinikliev

Gjorge Stinikliev

Recruiting Manager at .

Yes, Drivers Can Experience Fatigue-Related Symptoms Impacting Physical Exams And Safety

Commercial drivers working on shifting schedules may face various impacts on their ability to drive safely.

Irregular or unpredictable work hours can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation and fatigue. Fatigue is a significant risk factor for accidents as it impairs reaction times, decision-making abilities, and overall alertness. Shifting schedules can also disrupt circadian rhythms, affecting the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and potentially leading to excessive drowsiness during work hours.

Additionally, inconsistent schedules may result in inadequate rest between shifts, limiting the driver’s recovery time. This can further contribute to fatigue and increase the likelihood of errors or accidents on the road. The combination of long work hours and irregular sleep patterns can have a cumulative effect on driver performance and jeopardize safety.

These impacts can also affect DOT physicals. Fatigue-related symptoms such as high blood pressure, sleep disorders, and cognitive impairments can be detected during these physical exams. If a driver’s physical condition is compromised due to working on shifting schedules, it may result in a failed DOT physical, leading to restrictions on driving privileges or even disqualification from commercial driving.

To mitigate these risks, employers can prioritize implementing policies that promote adequate rest periods, limit consecutive driving hours, and offer support for healthy sleep habits. Drivers should also prioritize self-care, including proper sleep hygiene, maintaining a balanced diet, and engaging in regular physical activity.

Additionally, open communication between drivers and employers can help address any concerns or issues related to shifting schedules, ultimately promoting safer driving practices and ensuring compliance with DOT physical requirements.

Dr. Shelby Harris

Dr. Shelby Harris

Director of Sleep Health at .

Yes, Shifting Schedules Can Increase Risk Of Accidents And Long-Term Health Problems

Working on shifting schedules can have significant impacts on commercial drivers’ ability to drive safely due to sleep deprivation. Insufficient and disrupted sleep can lead to fatigue, impaired cognitive function, and an increased risk of accidents.

Circadian rhythm disruption further adds to these challenges, affecting alertness and performance during critical driving periods when attention is of utmost importance. Not to mention chronic sleep deprivation can also result in long-term health problems. Bottom line, prioritizing adequate rest and maintaining regular sleep schedules is crucial to avoid these risks and promote road safety.

How can it affect DOT physicals?

Working on shifting schedules and experiencing sleep deprivation can have implications for [the] DOT physicals of commercial drivers. Fatigue-related issues, increased risk of medical conditions, and compliance with DOT safety regulations can be affected. It is very important for drivers to prioritize sleep and overall well-being to meet the physical requirements set by the DOT.

Tariro Goronga

Tariro Goronga

Yes, Shifting Sleep Patterns Can Impact Vision, Hearing, Mental Stability

Shifting schedules can have a significant impact on commercial drivers’ ability to drive safely, as consistent changes in sleep patterns or different daily shifts can cause impairments that prevent drivers from operating their vehicles in a safe manner.

It can also affect commercial drivers’ capability to pass a DOT physical. The test requires drivers to meet certain health requirements such as good vision and hearing, mental stability, and general fitness that is necessary for safe driving. Shifting sleep patterns can significantly impact these requirements, especially if the individual is not getting enough rest and has excessive fatigue. As a result, shifting schedules can make it harder for commercial drivers to pass their DOT physicals, even if they are otherwise healthy.

Andrew Kuttow

Andrew Kuttow

Editor-in-Chief of

Yes, Shifting Schedules Mean Inadequate Sleep and Subsequent Fatigue, Exacerbating Health Conditions

Shifting schedules can have a profound impact on commercial drivers’ ability to drive safely. The irregular work hours associated with shift work can lead to a lack of adequate sleep and subsequent fatigue, which poses significant risks to driver safety. As the CDC points out, fatigue can impair driving ability, with the risk of accidents increasing the longer one stays awake.

Moreover, stressful work schedules, in conjunction with personal distractions and inadequate rest, can negatively impact a driver’s awareness and attitude toward safety. Driver fatigue is a significant issue, contributing to as many as one in five fatal crashes. It’s also worth noting that in the U.S., a sizable proportion of workers (37%) get less than the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep daily. Most adults require between seven to nine hours of sleep each day.

Working on shifting schedules can also impact load security, especially in situations where fatigue or time pressures lead to oversights in following load-securing guidelines. Approximately one-third of commercial vehicle accidents are attributed to shifting loads, which can both damage cargo and compromise vehicle stability.

Regarding DOT physicals, a driver’s health and ability to handle the demands of shift work are crucial considerations. While specific information on how shifting schedules might directly affect DOT physicals was not provided, we can infer that fatigue and stress from shifting schedules could potentially exacerbate health conditions that are monitored during such examinations.

For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation has updated medical fitness standards for drivers and provided expert recommendations on stroke-related risks and crash risks for drivers who have experienced strokes or TIAs. It’s reasonable to speculate that a lifestyle involving irregular schedules, insufficient sleep, and high levels of stress might worsen such conditions, thereby impacting the results of DOT physicals.

In the future, the rising prominence of autonomous trucks might mitigate some of these issues by reducing the need for human drivers to work under shifting schedules. However, until then, it’s crucial that the potential impacts of shift work on commercial drivers’ safety and health are fully understood and addressed.

Norman Demeo

Norman Demeo

Yes, Shifting Schedules Can Increase Stress Levels, Contributing To High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease

Shifting schedules can have a significant impact on commercial drivers’ ability to operate vehicles safely. Here are a couple of ways this can happen:

Disrupted Sleep Patterns: Drivers working on shifting schedules often struggle with inconsistent sleep patterns. This can lead to chronic fatigue, decreased alertness, and slower reaction times – all of which can compromise safety on the road.

Increased Stress Levels: Shifting schedules can also induce higher levels of stress due to the constant adaptation to new routines. Chronic stress can affect a driver’s ability to concentrate, leading to potential safety hazards.

These factors can also influence DOT physicals. Chronic fatigue and stress can contribute to health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, which might affect a driver’s DOT physical results and ultimately, their fitness for duty.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors’ statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.