Preventing Truck Accidents: Safety Before Haste

semi truck on roadEvery year thousands of lives are lost in vehicle accidents. Although only about 3% involve large cargo trucks, about 10% of the fatalities are from these crashes. Due to their sheer size, they are more likely to cause a more serious accident than a passenger car.

Although drivers of these trucks require a commercial license and special training, they are still human and make mistakes when tired or fatigued.

Who Is at Fault For Trucking Accident Injuries?

When a large truck is involved in a fatality accident involving another vehicle, 76% of the time the occupants of the other vehicle are the ones who die. In 2010, fatalities for occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians in accidents involving these trucks were 3,146. Only 192 truck drivers lost their lives in multiple vehicle crashes in comparison. Since the drivers of these trucks are more likely to kill than be killed, preventing these accidents whenever possible is on their shoulders.

27% of large truck accidents involving other vehicles are at the fault of the large truck, according to the Large Truck Causation Study done by the Center for National Truck and Bus Statistics. It also sited that 48% of the trucks involved in crashes were “trucks for hire”, and up to 14% of these crashes for certain types of hired trucks were due to fatigue.

Hours of Service & Fatigue

Most truck drivers are paid per load. This means they get paid the same whether it takes them 2 days to deliver or 5 days to deliver. It only makes sense that they would push themselves to get the job done as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this can lead to fatigue and drug use to combat the long hours on the road.

Even though there is DOT mandated “hours of service” (HOS) that limits the amount of hours a driver can be on the road to 11-14 consecutive hours, which, even though they are long workdays, are not always adhered to. For financial reasons or being pushed to deliver by the for-hire company, many drivers fore-go the rest period and forge their driver log documents. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance found that 50% of log book violations were for HOS and falsification.

What Can Be Done To Reduce Trucking Accidents?

The main focus for groups like the Truck Safety Coalition is to reduce HOS and have mandatory Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBR) that measure driving time. These devices are mandatory in many countries and are available and used voluntarily in the U.S. Having EOBR as mandatory equipment would help keep truck drivers and the companies they work for honest and allow the needed rest for the drivers.

Another consideration is to remove the “no overtime pay” rule for truck drivers and allow them to get paid like any other worker. Truck drivers are excluded from receiving overtime pay and are usual paid by load or mile, instead of hourly. Once again, the goal is to push drivers to drive as far and fast as they can so both the driver and company make the most money.

With large trucks posing such a high risk for fatalities with their size and frequency on the roads, more needs to be done to protect both the drivers and other vehicles on the road. Finding ways to reduce fatigue and increase pressure on companies to enforce safe driving may help curb these preventable accidents.