Truck Drivers, fatigue, and fatal accidents

In 2017, over 4,700 people were killed in car crashes involving large trucks, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This death toll was a nine percent increase from the death toll of the previous year, as well as a 12% increase from 2008. Although there are different factors for why these accidents occurred, some in Congress have pointed to truck driver fatigue as a contributing factor.

There are more trucks on the road than ever before. More and more people are buying their goods online rather than in-store, creating a need for more truck drivers to make trips in a quicker fashion. With companies like Amazon giving the customer an option of overnight or even same-day shipping, truck drivers have more weight on their shoulders to deliver the products at a rapid rate. According to Hunbbel Meer, a blogger and researcher for keeptruckin.com, every year there are “15 million commercial trucks transporting 70% of all U.S. goods.” With that many trucks on the road, the need for all drivers to remain alert is paramount.

Although some lawmakers have suggested that driver fatigue is a major cause for accidents involving commercial truck drivers, statistics indicate that more often, passing cars are to blame for these accidents. According to a study by the NHTSA, the majority of crashes by truck drivers were caused by poor decision making and the driver not paying close attention to the road, rather than fatigue, which accounted for only 12% of the reasons the crashes that occurred. Truck drivers involved in fatal crashes were less likely to have a previously suspended license or restrictions to their license when compared to drivers of passenger cars. In total, only 9.2% of large truck drivers have had a previously suspended license or revocation that were involved in a fatal crash, compared to 21.1% of motorcyclists and 16.6% of people driving in a passenger car.

More and more people are buying their goods online rather than in-store, creating a need for more truck drivers

In 2013, a report by the American Trucking Associations and the University of Michigan Transportation Institute was made and concluded that the majority of the time, the passenger car driver was at fault in a fatal car accident, not the truck driver. In the study, UMTRI studied 8,309 fatal car crashes and found that the person driving the passenger car was at fault 81% of the time and 27% of the time for truck drivers. Another study conducted by the NHTSA in 2003 found that passenger cars were at fault 91% of time for head-on collisions, 91% for opposite-direction sideswipes, 71% for rear-end crashes, and 77% for same-direction sideswipes. This means that in most cases the truck driver is not at fault in all the scenarios researched in the study.

Overall, only 8.8% of all fatal car crashes involved a large-truck. Many times, it is the truck driver’s fault for making poor decisions on the road or not paying attention.

Ultimately fatal car accidents involving trucks are on the rise. However, in the majority of the cases studied, the accident was not the fault of the truck driver. That said, given the number of careless and distracted passenger car drivers on the road, it is more important than ever to maintain focus and alertness behind the wheel.

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