The unsustainable cost of truck accidents: Part II

The unsustainable cost of truck accidents: Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about the alarming rate of truck accidents on U.S. roads. Federal regulators say that on average, truck accidents kill more than 4,000 people per year and injure an additional 100,000 more.

The reason such accidents are so deadly is not difficult to understand. Simply put, semi-trucks are much larger and heavier than all other vehicles on the road. They require more stopping time and distance and also have larger blind spots. The answer to why truck accidents are so common is a matter of some debate, but fatigue and trucking industry negligence are two common factors.

Truck-driver fatigue
Truck driving is a very sedentary job with irregular hours. Even drivers who try to keep regular work and rest hours often get thrown off by scheduling snags such as a delayed pickup or drop-off. Keeping irregular hours makes it difficult to get restful sleep because the body is not in a natural circadian rhythm.

Many truck drivers also suffer from sleep apnea, which is sometimes related to weight gain caused by the sedentary nature of the job. Apnea significantly contributes to fatigue by interrupting whatever sleep truck drivers do get.

Finally, truck drivers often feel compelled to stay on the road longer than is legal or safe. Due to the nature of the job, truckers only get paid for miles traveled and time behind the wheel. Any stops for rest are treated as a “waste” of time.

Trucking industry negligence
The economy of the United States depends heavily on the trucking industry, which means that there is significant profit to be made. Trucking companies have a financial interest in pushing cargo loads and drivers to their limits.

But trucking companies also have to contend with the fact that truck driving jobs have a very high turnover rate because of the long hours and the low pay. This often means that truck drivers are pushed extra hard to fulfill shipment quotas. And when new drivers are hired, they may not be screened as carefully as they should be.

There are many other factors that add to the scourge of truck accidents in the U.S., but these are just some of the more prominent ones. Until or unless systemic changes are made, truck accidents will remain one of the deadliest hazards facing Americans.

Source: NBC News, " Truck Accidents Surge, But There's No National Outcry," Eamon Javers and Jennifer Schlesinger, July 30, 2014

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