For years, the American Trucking Association (ATA) has been sounding an alarm: the trucking industry is desperately short on qualified drivers. If the labor force isn’t strong enough to support that transportation network, it could have a devastating impact on our economy. However, there’s another way that the shortage could cause problems: it may make our highways less safe. Overtaxed truckers are more likely to cause accidents, which can have dangerous consequences for other vehicles and road users. If you or a loved one were involved in a truck accident it is important that you contact an experienced truck accident attorney to represent you in order to maximize your compensation and also to protect your rights.
What’s Causing the Shortage?
Commercial drivers are subjected to extremely difficult working conditions. Workers are typically paid by the mile, which means they’re incentivized and often expected to work exceptionally long hours with little rest. While the federal government does mandate rest periods for drivers, drivers are required to be on the road, away from their homes, for days at a time with just a few hours of rest between shifts. Those factors certainly make the job less appealing.
Also due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many truck drivers are unable or unwilling to be on the job. This has exacerbated the decline in drivers on the road. As a result transportation companies have been disrupted and this has caused stress on the drivers and their employers. Consequently, in parts of the country drivers have been forced to work longer and more inconvenient hours, and this will most likely contribute to future vehicle accidents.
How Does It Affect Drivers and Road Users?
The pressure placed on drivers to get to their destination is immense. In addition to the per-mile pay structure mentioned above, drivers are sometimes openly encouraged to falsify records of rest periods in order to reduce haul times. Rest periods are self-reported, which makes it easy for drivers to manipulate these documents. The rise of online shopping and rapid delivery has not helped the problem.
It’s not just truck drivers who are harmed by this practice. In 2017, for instance, 4,102 people died in truck accidents, and only 17 percent of these individuals were commercial vehicle operators. In other words, passenger vehicle drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists are much more likely to be killed in an accident with a truck.
The demands of commercial carriers impact traffic safety in several ways. Drivers who are hurrying to get to their drop off point are more likely to speed, tailgate and generally engage in reckless driving. They also are at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is a major reason for truck accidents.
Truckers are also more likely to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Random tests of truck drivers for alcohol and drugs, found that almost nine percent of all commercial vehicle operators tested positive for one of these substances. The most frequently-abused substances were marijuana and opiates, both of which increase a driver’s likelihood of causing an accident.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Due to the elevated risk of commercial vehicle accidents, it’s imperative that all vehicle operators take extreme care to protect themselves by following these guidelines:
- Stay alert while driving, particularly on highways.
- Always practice defensive driving.
- Never tailgate or follow too closely behind a commercial vehicle.
- Give commercial vehicles ample room to make turns.
- Be cautious while passing an 18-wheeler or other large vehicle.
- If you have been involved in a collision with a semi-truck or other large truck, contact a commercial vehicle accident lawyer as soon as possible.
If you need a truck accident attorney, then you should call our law offices today at any of our convenient locations and get a free consultation.
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