Truck accidents are nasty occurrences. A giant vehicle hits you out of the blue and leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. Injury, and sometimes even death, is inevitable. The NHTSA and other national organizations have repeatedly provided us with the statistics. What we are looking at today, however, are not the numbers but the most evident, most registered and the most disturbing cause of truck accidents -- human error. Why are truck drivers erring? Apparently, the most common reason behind truck accidents is excessive fatigue among the drivers. But why are our drivers so fatigued? Who or what is causing it? Let’s find out.
Demanding and Exhausting Schedules
The Hours of Service rules clearly stipulate the number of hours a truck driver can spend behind the wheel each day, and the mandatory periods of rest he must take in between. Log books are kept to maintain a record of the same. However, the trucking or transport company, the truck owner and the truck driver all function within a vicious system that ultimately leads to an overworked and tired driver.
Transport companies set unrealistic targets for truck drivers and put pressure on them to meet these targets. The delivery dates promised are unrealistic and difficult to achieve legally. So the trucking companies themselves teach and encourage drivers to make fake entries that do not reveal their real hours of work.
The driver on the other hand forces himself to make those extra hours to get that extra money. And that is how it continues. But when a road accident occurs, and a fatigued truck driver is found to be the cause of it, both the driver and the trucking company can be held liable for the accident and the injuries caused to the other party.
Substance Abuse Leading to Poor Judgment
There is a strong reason why I equated this dangerous phenomenon of fatigued truck drivers with a vicious circle earlier. When somebody is overworked and underpaid in a job like driving, or for that matter in any job, it leads to a build-up of resentment. Driving requires you to stay alert and focus on the roads for long hours at a stretch. That gets difficult when you are overworked. Moreover, roads are lonely and driving gets monotonous. This leads to drivers resorting to consuming drugs and stimulants, both legal and illegal. While this may help them stay awake and alert for a while, the later effects can be hazardous - ranging from hallucinations and delusions to shortness of breath and complete confusion and paranoia.
Under the influence of such drugs the probability of an accident rises considerably. Poor judgment and delayed reaction lead to dangerous driving decisions on the road.
We cannot generalize that all truck drivers resort to substance abuse; however, distracted driving is an undeniable aspect of fatigued driving. If you are not consuming alcohol and drugs to dull your emotions and fight exhaustion, you are indulging in other activities to keep yourself awake and interested in your job of driving.
Drivers seek distractions to fight the monotony, and are increasingly resorting to texting, calling, or watching videos while driving. The Arizona truck accident last year, caused by a truck driver who was allegedly looking at photos on Facebook when he rammed into a police vehicle killing two officers, is a glaring example of the dangers of distracted driving.
Listless Roads and Slumberous Noons and Nights
While the long hours on the road are obviously the main cause of fatigue among truck drivers, it is the nature of the occupation itself that carries scope of fatigue within it. Driving on roads for such long durations can get extremely boring and even frustrating at times. One is bound to feel sleepy and lethargic. Taking confused decisions at such a time when your mind is not alert can lead to accidents.
Afternoons and nights also see a high occurrence of truck accidents. The time between 2 pm and 4 pm (just after consuming a meal and alcohol) or the late night hours from 2 am to 6 am are dangerous hours. Your body demands sleep during these hours. Drowsiness and dozing off behind the wheel is common during these hours. And we all know what that can lead to.
Not Having Two Assigned Drivers
When long distances need to be covered by a single driver and there are rigid deadlines to meet, it puts huge pressure on the driver and takes a toll on his mental and physical health. Therefore, assigning two drivers for long journeys is a good idea. Not only can they take turns at driving, but also be a source of company for each other and keep a check on one another. But transport companies avoid doing this to minimize costs.
What Needs to and Must Be Done
• First and foremost, trucking companies need to think beyond profits and ensure that truck drivers are not overworked or exhausted. In fact, they should take all the required steps to prevent drivers from falling asleep behind the wheel.
• On the part of the driver, avoiding alcohol during driving will make the drive a lot less risky for himself as well as for others on the road.
• Organizations and individuals who hire trucking companies to ship their goods must hire companies with care. They must ensure that the contracted company follows the FMSCA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) rules.
• Victims of truck accidents who have suffered injuries and damage due to the negligence of truck drivers must seek legal assistance from trucking accident attorneys and file for proper compensation.