Driving a large truck can be risky. But, it is the truck driver and trucking company that make it dangerous.
Whether it is a dump truck, tow truck, or semi-tractor trailer, commercial vehicles cause some of the most severe and fatal collisions on our road ways. Many of these incidents are caused by a variety of factors.
Crashes can be caused by bad choices on the part of the truck driver. Some of these dangerous decisions involve:
- Careless driving (driving unreasonably)
- Blindside backing – in a large truck, there are more blind spots than in a regular car. Defensive driving systems for truck drivers encourage use of a spotter standing in places to view blind spots and give signals to the trucker in the driver’s seat who cannot see if anything is in the blind spots. If the trucker does not have an extra person to be a spotter, the trucker should use cones, triangles, or flares to place in the roadway to warn others who the trucker cannot see.
- Not being aware of the size of the truck or trailer
- Use of cellular phones or otherwise being a distracted truck driver – Last year the Department of Transportation banned the use of cellular phones for bus and truck drivers. This is critically important as cellular phones become less of a phone and more of a personal computer. Distracted driving is a factor in many accidents and can be especially dangerous when operating a large heavy truck.
- Not getting enough rest / being a tired driver. Just like being a tired swimmer is a common cause of drowning incidents, being a tired driver is a common cause of trucking accidents. Often, the trucker is tired because of demands placed on him or her by the company employer.
- Reckless driving (driving with a disregard for the safety of others).
In addition to the careless acts of truck drivers, the trucking companies themselves can be a contributing factor to these incidents. They put too many stressful demands on their drivers. They give them too many runs with not enough time. They do not give their drivers enough rest. And, they hire and continue to employ truckers with bad driving records or who are otherwise not qualified to drive for a commercial purpose.
Not all companies turn a blind eye to safety. Many trucking outfits make safety a fundamental basis and top priority of their company. But, there are other companies that seem to only care about getting the load to the next destination in the shortest amount of time. These companies put profits before safety.
There are many state and federal regulations in place drafted with a purpose to keep the public safe on our roadways. There are resting requirements that companies and truck drivers must adhere to in order to make sure the drivers get enough rest both during and between long hauls. Companies should require their drivers to keep log of hours on versus hours off, stops for rest and routes driven. Additionally, instituting quality internal safety procedures within the company are critical. These internal procedures should include internal training and defensive driving programs. It should include continuing education and refresher courses to remind drivers about trucking safety. Unfortunately, some companies that put profits before people do not comply with these regulations. And, some companies do not have internal procedures. Or sometimes if they do, the program in place is not adequate. Trucking companies should constantly update and modify the safety procedures they have in place to promote safety on our roadways.
For truck drivers who haul from state to state, a federal regulation from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) prohibits drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their trucks. This new regulation is enforceable against the trucking companies themselves, which will face fines of up to $11,000 if they allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones. These agencies have already issued bans on texting; this latest rule furthers the government’s efforts to end distracted driving in big rigs and make the roads safer for the cars that share the road with these trucks, rigs and semi-tractor trailer vehicles. Regardless of the fine, trucking companies have a responsibility to enforce safety rules, regulations and procedures with their drivers.