The trucking industry in the United States is frequently on the rise even though faster and newer means of transportation are being invented every day. Whether locally or cross-country, truck transport is one of the most suitable ways to distribute goods, with about 70 percent of all products reaching their destinations via some sort of truck.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), almost 500,000 crashes involving big trucks were reported to the police in 2018, with over 4,000 fatal and over 100,000 causing injury to persons involved. As most people recognize, driving on the highway is dangerous, especially when 10,000-pound trucks and vehicles add to the mix, inevitably spelling disaster. However, oftentimes crashes with big trucks occur in rural areas and precisely account for more than 50 percent of the totality! One must keep in mind the potential for a crash on both ends of the spectrum—the truck operators and the vehicle operators. Almost any experienced operator can recall an instance on the road when they became nervous while close to a big truck. The critical thing to remember is the basics we all learn in driver’s education class and the undivided attention needed when driving any type of motor vehicle for the safety of ourselves, our passengers, and others on the road.
Big trucks present dangers to themselves and others on the road, but what lies in the cargo of a big truck may increase the threat of injury as well. For example, big trucks carry hazardous materials like harsh chemicals that are highly flammable when exposed to heat. Also, big trucks often haul physically dangerous materials like large wood logs, steel beams, and even large machinery. In the event of an accident, these materials may lead to catastrophic results that truck operators risk each day while on the road. To elaborate, over 50 percent of reported truck afflictions released hazardous and explosive material, with another large chunk of crashes resulting in injuries or towaways. Another factor to consider is the utter weight of a truck in relation to the fundamental laws of physics. For example, standard vehicles on the road traveling at high speeds (over 50 mph) need a certain amount of distance and time to stop completely, even when slamming on the brakes.
On the other hand, big trucks carry such heavy loads, ranging from 10 to 40 tons, which requires them an even greater distance and time to stop completely. It is physically impossible for a car traveling on the highway to stop on a dime and foolish to assume a big truck can achieve the same. Part of the reason crashes with big trucks cause so much damage lies within the utter amount of force upon impact due to such heavy loads. Big trucks list their most harmful crashes as those which occur with other vehicles on the road. The reason for this may point to negligence on one party to explain how the crash happened in the first place. However, it must be emphasized that the negligence of regular vehicle operators is just as likely to occur as the negligence of a big truck operator. For a big truck operator to do their job, rigorous requirements include testing, both on paper and the road, before one receives their license to drive a big truck.
In any scenario involving a crash, it is crucial to evaluate the people behind the scenes. According to the FMCSA, roughly 5,000 big trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2018, and of those crashes, there were 328 people 25 years or younger and 294 people 66 years or older. This fact proves that most big truck operators involved in fatal crashes were middle-aged; therefore, a lack of life experience or too much life experience, for that matter, is unreliable to use as an explanation for the crashes. One may even conclude that it is more than likely that a middle-aged man possesses more big truck driving experience than most, and certainly more experience on that road than most others on the road. However, experience cannot correct bad habits that some vehicle operators (in cars or big trucks) possess.
Fatal crashes entail tragic results, and many fatalities on the road result in the operators or passengers not wearing seatbelts. Most of the time, there is no explanation of why one fails to wear a seatbelt other than the fact that they negligently decided or forgot to before traveling onto roads and highways. Other factors explain crashes on the road, such as operator impairment either through drugs or alcohol. As most are already informed, driving under the influence is one of the most dangerous acts one can participate in, period. Many studies confirm that impairment of any kind slows the operator’s reflexes and prevents them from correcting or adjusting for quick scenarios on the road that occur almost regularly. Even operators that lack sleep but continue driving pose a risk for others on the road around them. Unfortunately, this usually applies to truck operators due to their high volumes of workloads and shift lengths. The big truck driving industry revolves around the truck company’s ability to deliver its goods in a timely manner. This puts big truck drivers in danger by training them to function on small amounts of sleep and large amounts of driving. However, in recent times, regulations have emerged for truck companies to limit their operators’ hours and hopefully reduce the number of people on the road with little to no sleep. For example, hour limits per day exist, and the federal government prevents big truck operators from driving more than 14 hours in a single day after a 10-hour break. Weekly driving time regulations are in place, as well as required 30-minute driving breaks.
Conditions on the roads themselves add to the difficulties of driving any form of vehicle. As big trucks cross states regularly and sometimes the country, the number of driving conditions they experience increases drastically. Throughout the year, driving conditions decline for those on the road depending on their geographical location. For example, one may assume driving in the summer is easier; however, in places like the South, the summer is storm season, triggering large gusts of wind and heavy rainfall for hours on end. In areas further North, snow and ice play a considerable role in causing vehicle crashes of all sorts during the fall and winter months, especially for big trucks that fall victim to lack of brake control due to their already heavy loads. Even in the Spring, there are forms of big truck driving that occur on frozen roads, and the melting of these roads kills many big truck operators yearly. Vehicle operators must keep in mind quick tips to keep them informed about the roads that they travel. For example, a road becomes more slippery when rainfall first falls than during the rainfall itself. Also, a tire loses grip on roads that just recently received rainfall that has subsided.
Regulations for big truck operators stand as the greatest chance to protect both their operators and others on the road. The weight of a big truck stands as one of the most important factors to monitor regularly. One of the techniques that regulators use is weigh-stations, used as exits on the side of interstate travel. While on the interstate, big trucks may receive a notification over the radio to pull into the next nearest weigh station to be checked out by state regulators based on the size of their load. Frequently, big truck companies overload their big trucks to decrease the number of trips overall or save money. However, these heavier loads place more significant pressure on the big truck’s tires and create a more substantial risk than reward. In a staggering study, it was observed that big trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds were involved in a 330 percent increase of crashes that occurred on the road. One can only imagine the damage of a 10,000-pound vehicle falling over or colliding with another moving or immobile object. If a big truck pulls into a weigh station and fails to fall within compliance weight, they may be ticketed or lose a part of their load before being allowed to travel back onto the interstate safely. Weigh stations are essential measures taken by each state to protect their operators and those behind the wheel of big trucks.
Of course, it is vital to remember that regular vehicles on the road pose the same risks to truck operators when driving under the influence or without proper sleep. In addition, reckless forms of driving contribute to large portions of crashes as well. Speeding by regular vehicle operators or truck operators remains the number one explanation behind why these collisions occur, in front of the second most common reason, distracted driving. Unfortunately, distracted driving has evolved over the last 20 years due to the advancement of technology in our everyday lives. Things like smartphones and tablets loaded with games and social media are consuming the lives of many Americans due to the high volumes of intriguing information in one place. It is just as likely, to see a driver distracted by viewing social media while operating a vehicle than just texting or talking on the phone alone. The excellent news about technological advancement is that it occurs in all categories as we continue to progress. For example, new developments in cars and trucks exist to discourage vehicle operators from operating while distracted by their phones. Apps and newly created phone settings disable phone notifications from occurring while operators are on the road. Overall, the driving world contains an unlimited amount of distractions; still, it remains the responsibility of both the car and truck operators to refrain from participating in these dangerous activities simultaneously.
Unfortunately, trucking accidents occur daily, and it remains our job to keep you informed on the factors that play a part in these tragic events. The more informed you are, the better you can plan to act or react to a potentially life-changing event near you. Although they are common, trucking afflictions should not be seen as usual. It is up to us to practice driving as safely as possible for the sake of our own health and the health of those around us. If you find yourself or someone you care about amid a trucking accident, we may be able to help. Trucking accidents may stand tall due to their consequences, but we vow to stand taller to get you the knowledge and support you need. Here at the Cochran Firm, we stand to represent both the standard vehicle operators AND the big truck operators because ALL lives are valued the same.
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