Sleeping on the Job – Trucks & Tragedy

April 30, 2015 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

Semi-trailer trucks are some of the biggest vehicles on the road. These trucks are very useful at transporting goods around the country and they play a big role in keeping our economy growing. However, the sheer weight and size of a semi-truck makes it incredibly dangerous on the road. The average semi-truck weighs 80,000 lbs., which is 18 times heavier than the average automobile that weighs only 5,000 lbs. When it comes to crashes with semi-trucks, regular cars just don’t have a chance.

In order to keep the roads safe and to keep commerce flowing, the federal government passed several laws to make sure semi-truck drivers are driving responsibly. Semi-truck drivers are required to hold special permits, have special training, and they must make sure their vehicles are not overloaded. Truck drivers also have special responsibilities to maintain safe speeds, keep their brakes in good working order, and to keep an active lookout for others.

It is also illegal for truck drivers to work more than 14 hours in one shift without resting 10 hours in between. The purpose of this law is to keep truck drivers alert and awake so they don’t make fatal mistakes on the road.

Unfortunately, recent reports have hinted that many trucking companies ignore the rules regarding driving schedules. Some companies have even been accused of pushing their drivers to work longer hours so the company can make more money. A recent investigation has even suggested that some companies encourage their drivers to alter their work schedules/driving logs so it appears that they are following the rules and regulations.

This behavior is unacceptable. The longer a driver pushes their limits, the more they start behaving like drunk drivers. Research shows that 20% of all road fatalities involve a fatigued driver. Once a driver has been awake for 17 hours, he or she is twice as likely to be involved in an accident, which is about the same statistic for those with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.05. The consequences can be devastating.

Large trucks and commercial vehicles are involved in half a million crashes a year, resulting in about 5,000 deaths. On average, 750 of these deaths are directly linked to exhausted truck drivers.

The tragedy is that all these fatalities could have been prevented. Semi-truck collisions do not have to happen if everyone followed the rules.

Not all trucking companies are so unethical. Like all companies, there are responsible employers and there are irresponsible ones. However, the irresponsible companies leave a trail of destruction on the road and their behavior should not be tolerated. Working truck drivers deserve to sleep on a bed, not sleep on the job; and regular motorists deserve safe roads to drive on.

We have decades of experience presenting victims of semi-truck accidents and encourage you to contact us and the authorities if you or a loved one has been the victim of a semi-truck accident. Let’s work together to make the roads safer for everyone.