Are There More Truck Wrecks on the Highways?

Are truck accidents on the rise? It is estimated that there are currently more than 2 million 18-wheelers on the highways in this country. Each rig can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. All those trucks on the road can pose a serious risk to motorists. According to NHTSA and the DOT, large trucks accounted for almost 4,000 fatalities in 2013 alone. Large trucks are involved in multiple vehicle fatality crashes at twice the rate of passenger vehicles which accounts for almost one out of every four passenger vehicle fatalities according to the Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that among the top 10 most common factors that cause truck accidents are fatigue, driver distraction, prescription drug use, driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding. Many of these factors are caused by the number of hours and miles a truck driver must cover each day as a part of his employment agreement with a trucking company. 

Combating problems with truck driver fatigue was made worse in 1980 when the industry was deregulated. Science has shown that a person's need for sleep grows proportionally to that person's lack of sleep. Without sleep, eventually, no amount of stimulants, are able to combat exhaustion. A truck driver's schedule can present a danger to everyone on the roads when the schedule either does not allow for appropriate amounts of sleep or causes irregular sleep patterns due to a changing schedule. 

The number of authorized motor carriers in the U.S. has gone from less than 30,000 to over 500,000 since 1980, allowing driver pay to remain low. Driver's being paid by the mile will drive further and longer in order to make a better paycheck. According to the FMCSA, drivers may drive a maximum of 11 consecutive hours. Many drivers will therefore continue to drive even though they should stop and rest. Unfortunately, truck drivers have no protection from the Fair Labor Standards Act when it comes to overtime pay. 

As carriers compete for business, many times truck drivers suffer worse working conditions. This leads to not only a higher rate of exhaustion among qualified drivers, but an incentive for carriers to hire poorly qualified drivers. A trucking company that does not properly train its drivers on the risks of driving while fatigued or does nothing to ensure that this does not happen is putting the driving public at risk. 

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