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Truck Safety: How the Shortage of Drivers and Lack of Sleep Can Cause Danger on the Road

Trucking is a growing industry and is the dominant method to move freight in the United States.  Trains, planes and automobiles all pale in comparison. In 2012 trucks moved 9.4 billion tons of freight, which is 68.5 percent of all domestic deliveries.

The following are some positive factors that will help keep this industry “trucking” along:

  1. Our domestic economy continues with low inflation
  2. Rapidly recovering housing market
  3. The steady rise in stocks
  4. Modest gas prices compared to other countries

These factors have allowed the trucking industry to grow 10.3 percent over the past few years.  In April of 2013 alone, trucking grew by more than 1 percent.

However, the industry has one universal concern… not enough drivers!  This is where the industry falls short. Drivers are in such high demand that jobs are offered before new drivers complete their certification.  It also means that the lowest qualified drivers are still needed, so poor driving habits and drivers who do not follow the rules are not being weeded out of the industry.  Instead, they are being given jobs.

Truck drivers have an immense responsibility.  The vehicles they drive are different than passenger cars.  Most of us drive regular 3,000-pound cars while some of us drive big trucks that weigh about 5,000 pounds and others even drive super-sized SUVs that weigh a whopping 8,000 pounds.  Truck drivers motor down our roadways in absurdly large vehicles.  The typical truck weighs more than 80,000 pounds and has 18 wheels. The size of these vehicles causes them to behave differently on the road than a “regular” car. They do not break as easily.  They do not corner well.  They are more dangerous in high wind conditions. They are a rolling vision of death when they go out of control and slide across the highway, jackknifing in bad weather!

Because of the unique nature and size of trucks, every truck driver must accept a greatly enhanced level of responsibility.  Truck drivers must have the training, endurance and mental capability to dedicate 100 percent of their attention to the road at all times. They must also follow the federal mandated trucking rules, all in order to avoid devastating accidents.

Why lack of sleep takes a heavy toll on truck drivers

Sleep, or lack thereof, takes a heavy toll on truckers.  It also puts them behind on deliveries.  Truckers spend long hours on the road and many of those hours are in a state of sleep deprivation.  The average adult needs more than seven hours of sleep per night.  The average trucker takes the minimal sleep break of five hours per 24 hour period.  That has led to an epidemic of truck drivers who fall asleep on the roads while driving.  An estimated 1 in 4 truckers admit to dozing off, even momentarily, while driving their truck on a monthly basis. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) now requires truck drivers to keep a sleep log and notate that they are getting a minimal amount of sleep.  But that regulated amount may not be enough, and even if it is, logging it in the book does not make it happen.

The evidence is overwhelming.  Sleep loss is the main contributing cause for deadly accidents.  This is not only true for truckers but for all drivers. Experts have proven how lack of adequate sleep can impact driving performance and reaction time, similar to alcohol.  A truck driver who “pulls the all-nighter” is now driving in a state equivalent to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent.

Truck driver error is the main cause of trucking accidents, accounting for 87.2 percent of all trucking accidents.  Due to the sheer weight and size of these vehicles, trucking accidents cause major injuries to the driver and passengers in the cars that are involved. These injuries are often life-threatening and can result in a lifetime of pain and disability.

If you believe truck driver fatigue is the reason for your trucking accident, it is important to act quickly.  Valuable evidence can be lost or destroyed quickly, and your attorney will need to prove your case using that evidence.  Remember to obtain trucking logs, black box data and any other evidence that is needed to prove your injury case.  Experience does count in trucking cases. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident involving any large truck, farm equipment or other commercial vehicles, please call a trusted attorney ready to help day and night to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

Update 6/10This past weekend A-list actor, Tracy Morgan, was involved in a tractor-trailer truck accident.  The driver of the truck, Kevin Roper, had been awake for more than 24 hours before driving into the back of the vehicle that held Tracy Morgan and several others. Roper turned himself in to the police the next day and was released on $50,000 bail. He is being charged for vehicular homicide and assault by auto.

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