Trucking Accidents on the Rise
The trucking industry is the lifeblood of the American economy. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, truckers have been busier than ever, keeping shelves stocked by hauling loads of food, medicine and other essential items across the highways and byways of America every day. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation deemed truck stops essential businesses, as too vital to be shut down. Unfortunately, along with the increase of trucks on the road, the number of fatalities involving semis and other large trucks is spiking.
Across the North American continent, 500,000 trucking accidents occur each year: 5,000 involve a fatality and 52% of large truck accident deaths happened on major roads. Both federal regulators and the trucking industry have refused to take steps to mandate the retrofit of older vehicles with new technology that employs automatic emergency braking to prevent rear-end collisions, forward-collision warning systems, and other high-tech safety features that are standard in new rigs. Although politicians like U.S. Senator Cory Booker have called on Congress to take meaningful steps to improve safety across the transportation sector, trucking industry lobbyists, whose top priority is cost control, have prevented any legislation from moving forward.
But what is actually causing all these accidents? The rise in accidents is due to several factors beyond the vehicles’ functions: poor judgment, a lack of safety procedures and overtiredness are all to blame. However, there are some essential safety tips that truck drivers can implement to protect themselves.
The biggest issue is sleep, or what is called “birther time” in the trucking industry. Not long ago, truckers had to enter their individual sleep time on paper logs, which left no room for oversight, and encouraged truckers to short their birther time to gain more paid-hours on-the-road. Now technology exists to track truckers, the amount and quality of their sleep, and when the truck is in motion.
Trucking accidents were more severe and more common prior to the advent of this technology. Today, drivers are often required to track their schedule, sleep time and truck movement via applications on iPads or Android tablets. These apps allow birther time to be logged in real time – as a result, trucking companies can manage and track their drivers constantly.
Another truck safety issue is caused by truckers who skip vehicle service. Trucks drive extremely long distances and need to be maintained religiously. Brakes, tires, hydraulics systems, etc. all have to be checked after a specific number of miles. Thanks to technology, sensors remind truckers to follow these Department of Transportation guidelines, with services automatically logged and tracked in the system.
Although the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require all heavy trucks to adhere to reasonable safety standards, Congress has yet to take meaningful steps to mandate safety rules across the transportation sector. And safety guidance applies to all drivers, not just truckers. It is important that we all do our best to stay safe this holiday season, no matter what kind of vehicle you’re driving.