Accidents involving large trucks are a significant problem in the United States. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that 3,852 people died in accidents involving large trucks in 2015 alone. Because of the difference in size and weight of vehicles, along with other factors, almost 70% of these fatalities were in passenger vehicles. Another 16% were in the trucks themselves, with the remaining victims being pedestrians, motorcyclists or bicyclists.
While significant factors causing truck accidents can vary from speed to road conditions to alcohol use, the IIHS says the single biggest cause of large truck accidents is driver fatigue. While it would be simple to assume the cause of fatigue is lack of sleep, the problem goes deeper and is more far-reaching. It can be valuable to understand more about the trucking industry.
The Cause of the Cause
So why is driver fatigue such a major factor in large truck crashes? It starts with money. Many drivers are paid based on miles driven. While Federal regulations put limits on the number of miles and hours driven in a given day or week, drivers are often forced to circumvent the rules to improve their earnings. Even under the regulations, drivers can still drive up to 77 hours per week while amassing almost 8,000 of miles on the highway. There is also the fact that drivers often leave a sedentary lifestyle and don’t eat properly. Sleeping areas can be hard to find and sleeping quarters uncomfortable.
Because of this lifestyle, drivers are frequently overweight. This can lead to another cause of lack of sleep — sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sufferers of sleep apnea will often stop breathing for short, sometimes almost imperceptible amounts of time throughout the night. This will lead to the body’s waking itself up to restart the breathing process. These interruptions often prevent the body from getting the deep, rejuvenating sleep needed for a productive and safe experience behind the wheel. In severe cases, sufferers may find themselves falling asleep behind the wheel unexpectedly and rapidly. This is a frightening prospect.
It would seem a good way to monitor this problem would be to have truck drivers undergo tests for sleep apnea. In fact, during the Obama administration, such legislation was put into place. In August of 2017, however, the Department of Transportation withdrew the proposal for sleep apnea testing in truck drivers, stating that it was in an effort to “reduce regulations.” It may indeed reduce regulations, but it may also be increasing the dangers on the highways.
The Threat to Truck Drivers and Others on the Road
Truck-related accidents are a major cause of personal injuries in the country, and finding the responsible party or parties can take an experienced legal firm. Causes can include improper truck maintenance, faulty parts or repairs, insufficient training, driver distraction, driver inexperience, over-loading or improper loading of trailers, and, yes, driver fatigue.
Sometimes it takes looking into “the cause of the cause” to get satisfaction in a personal injury case. The Mann Law Firm has been helping residents in the Middle Georgia and Macon area gets results in personal injury cases for over 50 years. If you are suffering from a truck accident injury, please contact us for a free initial consultation at (478) 742-3381. At the Mann Law Firm, YOU come first.