trucking accidents

Trucking Accidents Highlight Need for Industry Reform

As death tolls involving commercial trucking continue to rank in the thousands each year, concerns continue to mount over the need for more stringent hiring, training, and oversight practices. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,964 people were killed in accidents involving large trucks in 2013 alone.

In light of these alarming numbers, which continue to grow every year, Congress and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have been struggling for years regarding methods to reduce the fatalities. Congress has urged that the DOT instate stricter safety measures, while the DOT struggles to comply. The most recent instance of this difficulty occurred in early December of 2014, as Congress passed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriation Act, 2015. The massive bill, topping 1,600 pages, includes a suspension of the long-established 34-hour restart provision. Drivers are only allowed to drive a maximum of 70 hours in one week, but, through this provision, this period can be reset if a driver is off-duty for a 34 hour period. This voluntary reset ability was suspended until at least September of 2015 through the acceptance of the new legislation.

Controversy has arisen surrounding the effects of the suspension, and whether stronger measures should be taken to prevent tragedies caused by large trucks. Despite urging from many organizations, very little legislation or updates to regulations have been approved in the past 20 years.

Truck and delivery drivers continue to account for the highest rate of workplace fatalities each year, with spikes caused by the transport of dangerous substances, such as oil and gas from the Bakken Shale oilfields. Large trucks are used in a multitude of fields, however, such as manufacturing, construction, logging, and chemical refineries. With massive trucks carrying heavy cargos over interstates across the country, it’s no surprise that fatal accidents serious injuries occur with relative frequency.

Causes of Trucking Accidents include:

  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Dangerous weather conditions
  • Driver fatigue
  • Equipment failure, including brakes, tires, and securing equipment
  • Lack of experience
  • Negligent hiring practices, leading to drivers with record of violations
  • Speeding

Despite the general clamor for better oversight of the trucking industry, questions linger over how to implement more stringent regulations, and how to fund the necessary reform.