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Truck Drivers Say Fatigue Is A Risk They Have To Manage On California Highways

WOODLAND (CBS13) — California Highway Patrol officers say a sleeping truck driver caused a big rig accident in Woodland on Thursday morning.

It happened just before 5:30 a.m. near County Road 102 on southbound Interstate 5.

The trucking industry regulates drivers' hours, and employs additional measures to keep drivers safe on the road.

Danny Shipman has driven across 48 states, including Canada, during his 17-year truck driving career.

He just finished unloading a fleet of personal cars for the Sacramento River Cats, and has two-autographed baseballs from the job.

Shipman's job comes with perks, but there are also dangers.

He says because there are so many trucks on the road, many drivers are having a harder time finding free parking to take breaks, so they keep driving.

"I've actually taken a ticket; I've paid a few tickets because I refuse to drive sleepy. I've got a few kids and a wife at home and I'm not gonna make her a widow," Shipman adds.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Thursday morning's accident in Woodland involved a driver and a passenger who were taking turns driving a big-rig down to Los Angeles.

The driver, officers say, had little experience and no sleep.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries and almost one-thousand deaths in 2013.

There are specific rules that every truck driver must follow, under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to avoid crashes like the one on Thursday.

According to Tom Stevens, driving instructor at Western Truck Driving School, "You're supposed to drive eleven hours, then you are required to take ten hours off and then you can drive another eleven and take ten hours off…it keeps going and going."

Truck drivers also are drug tested at random every year, and if they are found in violation of the company's drug policy or their hours, the driver can get fired or even lose their commercial driving license.

Many truck drivers say there's only so much time you can devote on the road, and going over the edge is not worth it.

Victor Innings, a decade-long truck driver from Elk Grove advises, "If you start feeling tired, pull it over and shut it down, that's all there is to it."

The driver is at a local hospital in Woodland, with unknown injuries.

Stevens says most truck companies can keep tabs on their drivers through a satellite -- they can find out how long the driver has been on the road, where they are and even how fast they are driving.

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