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Long-Haul Truck Driving: Dangerous for Everyone

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Well, the results are in for 2016’s most dangerous jobs in the United States. (Drumroll, please.) The U.S. Department of Labor named logging the most dangerous job, with 135.9 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers. Loggers often work in rugged and steep terrain, handle dangerous machines and chainsaws, and deal with the unavoidable momentum of crashing, rolling, and sliding trees.

As we imagine working as loggers in the cold or rain, far from medical care, we can’t deny the danger of performing that job. However, we noticed an even more alarming number in the Department of Labor’s report. While loggers had the highest fatality rate, truck and sales drivers had the highest number of total deaths, with 918 in 2016.

And for the average American, loggers are not the ones likely to crash into you on Interstate 222 in St. Louis—truck drivers are. That’s right, it’s not all cruising with the music on and the windows down. It may be safe to say that while logging is most dangerous for loggers, long-haul truck driving is the most dangerous job for everyone else.

Danger of Transportation Accidents

In fact, Time Magazine pointed out that transportation accidents were the leading cause of job fatalities in 2016, causing 40% of all workplace deaths. Those deaths included 632 truck drivers, 116 farmers, and 62 groundskeepers who were killed on the road, among others. As we’ve discussed before in our blog, semi-truck accidents are all too common in Illinois, and happen for all sorts of reasons.

Back in 2014, a CNBC article headline read “Truck accidents surge: Why no national outcry?” At the time, fatal truck accidents were happening 11 times every single day on average in the United States. In 2015, 4,311 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, an 8% increase from 2014 (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration). Between 2011 and 2016, truck driver fatalities rose by 11.2%.

Howard Abramson’s 2015 The New York Times article, “The Trucks Are Killing Us,” bluntly expressed similar exasperation. It also noted that many of the accidents occur when trucks fail to stop behind other vehicles that have stopped or slowed down, resulting in rear-end crashes. The technology to prevent this kind of crash is available from all of the manufacturers of heavy trucks in North America, but only 3% of the heaviest trucks are equipped with collision-avoidance technology, according to safety advocates.

Why Truck Accidents Are on the Rise

While trucks provide a level of danger in and of themselves, mostly due to their sheer size and weight, the most common cause of truck accidents is even more frustrating. Sleep deprivation is a huge problem in the trucking industry. In fact, the truck driver who seriously injured Tracy Morgan and killed James McNair in 2014 was sleep-deprived and failed to stop in time behind Morgan and McNair’s van.

According to USA Today, trucking companies often dispatch truckers for shifts that last up to 20 hours a day, six days a week. The list of truck accidents that occurred while drivers were on their 15th-plus hour of work goes on and on. With some exceptions, federal regulations require commercial truckers to take a 10-hour break every 14 hours. Ignoring these regulations leads to health issues for drivers that are so extreme, they are causing truckers to leave the industry entirely (Trucks.com).

How to Curb the Rise of Truck Accidents

Fortunately, there are some safety options that trucking companies can implement to curb the rise of truck accidents. One option is to have drivers wear fatigue-monitoring devices. A less-invasive method compared to in-cab cameras, wearable monitoring devices like headsets measure head movement to detect when a driver may be fatigued or distracted. The device may be worn as a headset, wristwatch, or headband, and often connects to a smartphone app. Think: fitness tracker for truckers (Overdrive).

While companies that don’t want to invest dollars in the technology and drivers who don’t want to be “micro-managed” will argue that trusting a driver’s instincts on fatigue is satisfactory…that just doesn’t seem to be working. Companies often pressure their drivers to work more than they are safely able to, and overachieving truckers trying to make a profit will push themselves too far. Wearable fatigue monitoring devices take some guesswork out of the situation—and violations can go on the record.

Getting Help After a Truck Accident

Knowing that there is not much you can do about a fatigued truck driver on the road with you is pretty terrifying. But you can prepare yourself in one way: with knowledge. If a trucking company has failed to ensure that its truck was properly maintained, and that its driver took the required number of break and rest hours, that company may be liable for your medical bills and other damages. And they know it, which is why trucking companies work actively to devalue claims.

So if you’ve been hit by a big rig, check our Truck Accident Settlement Calculator. Do you have a valid claim? Probably. And you should do something about it.

When the trucking industry fails to meet safety standards, it should catch up with them, and victims are now getting their day in court. It is important to hold these companies responsible, not only to help you recover, but to push for better safety practices industry-wide. In the event of a Belleville-area truck accident, we strongly recommend you talk to us. John Hipskind and Brady McAninch of Hipskind & McAninch, LLC, will listen to your story, discuss your case, and answer all your questions. Please call (618) 641-9189 for a free consultation. (Not sure? Check our reviews.)

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