The number of trucking accidents every year is increasing. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) data, about 5,000 drivers are killed annually; including 130,000 people injured from a trucking accident.
Of course, trucking accidents can occur for various reasons, including: vehicle performance, whether conditions, unsafe road conditions, etc. However, FMCSA reports that the number one cause of trucking accidents is driver error.
It is a commercial truck drivers job to stay safe on the road; and not put anyone, or themselves, in harm’s way. It is not always the fault of the truck driver; but here are some common causes that you should be aware of:
Driving Under The Influence: Operating any moving vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol has potential for fatality. Forty-four percent of trucking injuries where the driver is at fault includes the use machinery while under the influence of over-the-counter drugs. More than that involves the consumption of alcohol while driving. Driving under the influence can also cause a truck-rollover, which is one of the most common causes for driver error crashes. A rollover has high potential for fatality and/or injury to the driver and anything in its path.
Driver Fatigue: Federal regulations limit truck-drivers regarding how many hours they can they can continuously operate a vehicle for. Unfortunately, not all truck-drivers pay head to these regulations. This can lead to driver fatigue, causing poor driving performance and imposing danger upon themselves and others. An ill-rested driver may possibly fall asleep behind the wheel, speed without realizing it, ignore road signs, experience blurry vision, not react in time, etc. A driver is allowed to drive up to 14 consecutive hours only after a ten hour or more resting period. After that fourteenth hour, federal regulations prohibit a driver from operating their vehicle until ten more hours have past. These ten hours are given as a resting period for the driver to replenish their energy before driving again.
Speeding: Drivers are trained to abide by speed safety procedures. When operating a mass 18-wheeler truck, it is more difficult to come to a complete halt if you are operating at a dangerous speed. Speeding can lead to a rollover, off-the-road incidents, etc. Speeding poses threat to the driver, and any other drivers who may fall in the way of an out of control truck.
Driver Distraction: As with the operation of any moving vehicle, distraction can be extremely dangerous. Distractions can including: electronic devices, food, drinks, talking to someone else in the vehicle, looking in mirrors/personal grooming, etc. Distractions can cause the vehicle operator to not notice other cars, road blocks, road and warning signs, amongst other pertinent dangers on the road.
Driver Inexperience: Of course, truck drivers must be certified and attend training. However, there is still room for inexperience in certified drivers. If a truck operator is ill-prepared, they may not take precaution to safety procedures. Several mistakes can be made if the driver does not have enough training, or doesn’t know what to do and when to do it. This negligence can lead to injury and fatality.
While driver error is the leading cause in trucking accidents, equipment failure is the cause of many deaths annually. 18-wheelers require 40% more time to come to a complete stop than a normal vehicle. This is due to the fact that they weigh nearly 40 tons on average.
Equipment failure can occur due to manufacturing error or poor maintenance. Failure in keeping up with proper maintenance is one of the largest reasons for mechanical causes of trucking accidents. Several issues can occur is a vehicle isn’t kept up to standard.
- Brake failure due to lack of check ups and adjustments (cause of 30% of trucking accidents according to the DOT)
- Tire blowouts due to excessive wear
- Depowering/removing from breaks (cause of jackknifing)
- Transmission failure
- Defective side lighting
- Defective rear lighting
- Defective steering
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