Here in Beaumont, we understand the upside of the large vehicles rolling into town from Interstate 10 and rolling out on the same busy stretch of highway. Tractor-trailers haul needed food and other goods to us and transport what we produce here to other parts of the nation.
A few days ago, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator James Owens spoke at the 2020 Trucking Safety Summit, noting the importance of the trucking industry’s role in the economy.
However, Owens also talked about the downside of the industry: commercial truck crashes that result in severe injuries or fatalities.
Owens cited 2018 large truck accident statistics, pointing out that 4.415 people died in commercial truck crashes that year and that more than 90 percent of them were occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists or other road users.
“That’s why safety must be everyone’s first priority on the road,” Owens said, adding that it’s vital for truckers to observe speed limits, drive appropriately for road conditions, avoid phone use while behind the wheel and comply with inspections and regulations. He also stressed that it’s crucial for truckers to obey service hour restrictions that require rest breaks and limit the number of hours they can spend on the road.
Common crash causes
Let’s take a look at fatigue and other common causes of commercial truck crashes:
- Fatigue: the most frequent cause of 18-wheeler accidents, fatigue is often the result of trucking firms’ pay structures that reward truckers who meet deadlines by driving long distances in marathon shifts behind the wheel. An abundance of research shows the dangerous effects of insufficient rest on drivers.
- Distractions: research shows that when truckers pay more attention to their phones and other electronics than to traffic, they’re even more dangerous than drunk drivers.
- Alcohol and drug use: everyone understands the danger posed by an intoxicated trucker behind the wheel of a 40-ton rig.
- Speeding: excess speed decreases the amount of time that a driver has to react to traffic and road conditions, making it less likely that evasive actions can be taken or that the 18-wheeler can be stopped in time to avoid a collision.
- Poor training: far too often, truck accident reconstruction will pin the blame on a poorly trained truck driver who made bad decisions at high speeds on an interstate highway.
Let’s hope that the trucking industry does more in the coming days to address each of those issues. Doing so would not only save lives – the most important consideration – but it would also save the industry money in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.