Last year, 2017, fatalities from truck accidents reached their peak number in 29 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported a total 4,761 deaths at the end of the year. That was 392 more lives lost than the previous year, 2016.
There is a possibility that truckers racing to get somewhere faster before their required break every eight hours could have something to do with the rising numbers in accidents and deaths. Federal regulations limit truckers to being allowed to drive for 11 hours within a 14-hour period, along with a 30-minute break every 8-hours.
Jim Mullen, chief counsel for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) speaks on this issue. “We hear a lot of drivers saying because of a lack of flexibility, we’re speeding,” he continues, “…I hope they’re not putting themselves and the motoring public in danger just to get their freight from Point A to Point B because of the regulations.” Although drivers may be speeding, he does not believe there is a direct link between the “hours-of-service rule” and the number of fatalities from trucking accidents.
The public has been sharing their opinions and comments on the hours-of-service rule, and regulators are looking into making modifications. One experienced driver, Luke Foster, states that he prefers driving 11-hours straight before going on a break. He claims that it “increases his fatigue” by going on a break when he doesn’t yet need one.
Of course, truckers who get caught speeding get ticketed. Speeding is the number one cause of fatal crashes; but of course, not the only cause. There are several other factors that can cause a fatal truck crash, one topic that truckers have been speaking on is bad driving habits in general.
You should always practice safe driving at all times; especially if your job requires extensive hours on the road and behind the wheel. Jeromy Hodges, a retired trucker, says “the younger drivers who are now getting into trucking are bringing along their bad driving habits.” He also claims to have seen drivers practicing other unsafe activities like texting and driving. He recalls a time where he even saw a driver with both their feet on the dashboard, letting the truck operate on cruise control. He retired back in 2016 because it’s become “such a dangerous job with all the distracted drivers out there,” he says. “I didn’t want to press my luck any longer.”
Many people have debated how we can make the roads safer, and ensure the awareness of truck drivers. Technology that monitors the driver in the vehicle may be able to do just that. Trimble Inc. is partnering with Pulsar Infomatics to monitor just how fatigue can affect driving performance and behaviors. A digital scorecard will assist motor carriers in collecting data that will result in rewarding, coaching, or firing drivers.
Many drivers in the industry claim that their fatigue is attributed to the lack of accessible parking to rest. However, in 2017 Accident Analysis and Prevention stated that most crashes where the truck driver was at fault and claimed to be tired or fatigued occurred within 20 miles from a rest area. Truckers voted safe rest areas to be their second highest concern in the most recent Top 10 challenges put together by the American Transportation Research Institute.
Ray Martinez, FMCSA Administrator, said that new safe rest areas must be apart of any infrastructure bill. Chairman of the American Trucking Association, Barry Pottle, says there need to be more full-service truck stops. He recalls five rest areas in Maine closing over the last year due to lack of money to operate them.
Modifying the hours-of-service rule may not be a complete fix to the trucking accident problem, but it may be a good place to start. It is important for drivers to be heard about how their bodies best tend to break times so that general rules can be best fit for them.
For more related stuff visit Wisconsin Man Killed in a Trucking Accident in Texas.