How Can Truck Drivers Avoid Causing Serious, Potentially Fatal Car Accidents?
The last thing a commercial truck driver wants to do is to cause any type of accident. Truck drivers know that the immense weight and size of their vehicles means that when an accident does occur, the consequences are frequently extremely serious or even fatal. Therefore, most truck drivers do put their best effort forward to help ensure that everyone reaches their destination safely and without incident. However, sometimes as humans, we can get sloppy and fail to follow best practices. In other cases, the demands of the job can be overwhelming and cause commercial drivers to take foolish risks and take types of actions where the risk is outlandish for the reward.
While 100 percent of risk can never be eliminated, certain simple steps and practices can greatly reduce the chance of causing or being a party to a serious accident.
Don’t Agree to Illegal or Unsafe Requests by Your Employer
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations regulations are dense and seemingly hyper-technical, this body of law has been developed over the decades. In many cases, the rules exist because scientific research has found problems with past behaviors or because of grisly accidents and other incidents. Aside from FMCSA regulations, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) regulations may also apply. For instance, FHWA sets forth maximum vehicle and axle weight limits through the application of bridge formula weights. Through these formulas, weight limits on gross vehicle weight, single-axle weight, and tandem-axle weight are set.
If your employer asks you to haul a load that is in excess of applicable weight limits, don’t risk your life, license, and everything you have worked for to fulfill this illegal request. Weight limits exist not only because of safety considerations regarding your ability to handle your commercial vehicle but also because of protecting the structural integrity of roads and bridges. Truckers have whistleblower protections that prohibit adverse employment actions for refusing an illegal request.
Ensure Sufficient Sleep Before Driving
The effects of insufficient sleep are well documented. Any driver who is fatigued can show signs of his or her exhaustion when operating a motor vehicle of any type. However, for commercial drivers, the margin of error is much more narrow and, therefore, the effects of insufficient rest can more frequently have serious or deadly results. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that drowsy driving causes up to 72,000 crashes each year and potentially up to 6,000 fatal crashes. One study by researchers in Australia found that fatigued driving has a similar effect as drunk or buzzed driving. The study found that 18 hours without rest produced effects comparable to a BAC of .05 while 24 hours without rest caused effects similar to a BAC of .08.
Aside from the medical effects of a lack of sleep, driving when you are fatigued or with undisclosed sleep apnea may also violate the law. FMCSA sets forth hours of service regulations to which truck and commercial drivers must maintain adherence. The failure to maintain hours of service compliance can result in regulatory consequences for the trucking company and the driver. Furthermore, fatigued driving increases the risk of an accident.
Be Patient and Avoid Taking Unnecessary Risks
As any truck driver knows, a vehicle that can be up to 80 feet long and 80,000 pounds, means that last-minute evasive maneuvers are impractical if not downright impossible. Therefore, truck drivers should be sure to always maintain safe following distances. Furthermore, staying to the right and allowing other vehicles to pass is also recommended behavior. Drivers typically realize that they will not beat the light and shouldn’t try to race to make it through the intersection.
Tailgating a slow-moving car or another vehicle is one of the most dangerous things a truck driver can do while being equally ineffective. First, the practice is ineffective. Tailgating rarely makes the other vehicle speed up and may even result in the opposite. Second, the weight of the semi-trailer means that trucks can need a stopping distance as great as two full football fields to come to a stop. Following too closely is a nearly surefire way to cause a potentially fatal accident where you will be held at fault. While you may not have intended the wreck, following too closely in a large truck is highly likely to bring about that result.
Avoid Truck Accidents by Employing Safe Commercial Driving Practices
The driving behavior of a truck driver is particularly important when it comes to reducing the likelihood of a commercial vehicle crash. Truck drivers who drive aggressively, fail to take care of their mind and body or agree to illegal requests increase the accident and injury risk for all drivers. Employ safe driving practices and don’t allow for yourself and other motorists to become another accident statistic.