Large truck operators are susceptible to the same kinds of issues as drivers of passenger vehicles, such as fatigue, driver errors and distraction. The risks for those same issues may be much higher, though, and so are the stakes when the driver is behind the wheel of a vehicle weighing 80,000 pounds.
Here are some of the reasons truck drivers have such a higher element of risk:
Time on the road
While many people spend an hour or two, or even three, on their daily commute to work, truck drivers typically spend their whole day on the road. Not only that, the hours-of-service regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allow truck drivers to work a much longer shift than the average worker: A trucker may work a 14-hour day, with 11 of those hours spent behind the wheel.
Even though the point of the regulations is to prevent truck driver fatigue, the long shifts can still lead to exhaustion, and fatigue can cause the same levels of impairment as alcohol.
The rise in online shopping has led to a boom for the trucking industry. At the same time, there are fewer people applying for trucking jobs, and many older drivers are retiring. The result for shipping companies is a demand that grows greater with every passing year. The stress of the situation trickles down. It is drivers who bear a disproportionate amount of the strain as their companies pressure them to drive more miles, sometimes to the point of violating the legal limit and taking risks that put everyone in danger.
Many people may remember the days when truckers used CB radios to communicate with dispatch and with each other. Now, there are laws preventing large truck operators from using handheld devices, but they do not ban other electronic distractions.
According to Heavy Duty Trucking, trucks often include technology and screens as built-in features in the cab just as passenger vehicles do. Navigation devices, fleet communication systems and tracking and training devices are frequent fixtures on the dash of large trucks. While manufacturers may intend for these to reduce the temptation to pick up a cellphone, they often create more elements of distraction.
As changes such as these continue to increase risks in the trucking industry, companies have more responsibility to their drivers and to the general public to reduce the chances of large truck accidents.