Fatalities from crashes involving large trucks have risen dramatically in recent years; from 2,845 fatalities in 2013 to 3,525 fatalities in 2018, an increase of over 20% in just five years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
What is causing this dramatic increase in semi-truck accidents? One theory is that the elevated amount of drowsiness of those driving semi-trucks can lead to fatigue and distracted driving. According to the National Safety Council, the average truck driver spends twice the amount of time working than the typical 40-hour work week, when factoring in loading, unloading, and time spent driving on the open road.
The National Safety Council also reported that drivers are far more likely to become fatigued and crash as the day goes on and it is dangerous to allow prolonged hours of driving for truck drivers. Long periods of sitting and driving take a toll on drivers’ ability to concentrate and increase the likelihood of fatigue and distractions.
The NHTSA uses the term distracted driving to refer to any behavior or activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the road, including texting, using a phone or display for GPS, eating, smoking, daydreaming, or tunnel vision. Prolonged trips give a false sense of safety which can lead to more distracted driving. In 2018, 71% of large truck wreck/car fatalities happened as a result of distracted driving. Similarly, a 2007 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) concluded that out of 141,000 large truck accidents in a 33-month period, 13% were caused by driver fatigue.
Although new industry-wide reform suggestions have been made to reduce fatigue and distractions, recent regulatory changes have gone in the opposite direction. The FMCSA waived driver fatigue rules through July 14, 2020 for truckers carrying essential goods during COVID-19, allowing drivers to spend far more than a normal 8-hour shift driving om the open road. A more permanent change also altered the truck driver fatigue regulations, allowing certain truck drivers to work two hours longer than previous mandates, extending workdays during bad weather, and counts on-duty, nondriving time—such a loading and unloading—as a “break.” If anything, fatigue and distracted driving is likely to continue and increase in the years ahead.
Here at the Poppe Law Firm, we represent clients who suffered substantial injury and family members who have lost loved ones in car accidents and truck wrecks. If you or a family member have suffered serious injuries or loss in a truck accident, or if you have lost a loved one in a semitruck collision, please do not hesitate to contact us.