Imagine that you’re a truck driver hauling cargo across the country. You have a strict deadline for when your goods need to reach their destination, ten hours of driving to go, and only twelve hours in which to get them done. Worse, you’re operating on only a handful of hours of sleep.
After a few hours on the road, your eyelids start to get heavy. They fall shut, and before you even have a chance to wake up again, crash. There’s been an accident.
The trucking industry has good safety standards in place, but with intense pressure to reach their destinations as quickly as possible, it should be no surprise that many drivers don’t follow them. I’ve had many clients come to my law practice as victims of commercial trucking because of three problems: distracted driving, impaired driving, and falling asleep at the wheel. Let’s take a look at each problem and explore how trucking creates a more dangerous road for everyone.
Now that almost everyone has a smartphone in their hand, truck accidents caused by distracted driving are on the rise. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require truck drivers to use Bluetooth technology whenever they are talking on their mobile phones while driving, but the problem is that cell phones aren’t only used for phone calls.
Recently, I represented the family of a woman who was killed because a flatbed truck driver was checking the GPS on his cell phone, attempting to get directions to his next destination. I’ve even seen truck drivers carry more than one cell phone at a time so they can multitask—simultaneously talking on the phone, texting, and consulting their GPS—all while driving.
Truck drivers are distracted by phones, computers, messaging systems in the truck, food, drinks, as well as other items. The results are often devastating, leading to deaths, brain injuries, or other severe injuries.
While distracted driving might be a leading cause of truck accidents, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol continues to be an issue among truck drivers.
The use of methamphetamine—taken by some drivers to stay awake—is particularly dangerous not only for the trucker, but for every other motorist on the road as well. Meth creates a false sense of well-being, and users feel invincible, like they have boundless energy. A trucker on meth will tend to push his body, and his truck, faster and farther than they are meant to go.
Impairment is not always drug or alcohol related. I’ve seen a case where a trucking company was short on drivers and hired someone whose physical impairment, epilepsy, rendered him wholly unqualified to safely manage a heavy truck on the roadways.
But greed won out and the trucking company, desperate to meet its customers’ needs, hired the driver all the same, with devastating results.
Falling Asleep at the Wheel
Another major cause of commercial motor carrier wrecks is the driver falling asleep at the wheel.
As in my first example, many truckers have strict deadlines to deliver their cargo, and they end up driving while exhausted and sleep-deprived. And although the number of hours a commercial motor vehicle driver can be on the road at any one time is regulated by the federal government, this doesn’t mean the drivers are getting adequate sleep when they are not working.
Furthermore, truck drivers are often overweight and unhealthy, which can contribute to obstructive sleep disorders like sleep apnea. In fact, it is estimated that as many as one out of every four truck drivers suffers from an obstructive sleep disorder. Lastly, many semis are operated through the night, which increases the odds of the driver falling asleep.
Combined, these factors lead to many accidents every year caused by a truck driver who had a sleep disorder, was driving tired, or fell asleep at the wheel.
Trucking Industry-Wide Problems
I’d like to be able to say that more was being done to prevent catastrophic trucking accidents, but the truth is that these problems lie at the core of the trucking industry’s purpose: to transport goods from point A to point B as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, not all trucking companies do enough to ensure that their drivers aren’t driving distracted, impaired, or sleep-deprived. As a result, we will keep seeing people injured and killed by semi and other big truck drivers.
If you end up the victim of the trucking industry, the best thing you can do is to hire a qualified attorney to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries.
For more advice on trucking accidents, you can find Semitruck Wreck on Amazon.
David W. Craig is the managing partner at the law firm of Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC. He is board certified in Truck Accident Law. David sits on the board of regents for the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA) and has over 30 years of experience representing truck accident victims. David is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and a proud recipient of the Thurgood Marshall “Fighting for Justice” Award. He was also named a top 10 trucking trial lawyer in Indiana by the National Trial Lawyers Association. To connect with David, visit ckflaw.com.