How to Prevent Truck Accidents and Keep the Road Safe

By Haley Bass | 10/17/2017

Trucking is one of the most important industries in America, providing over 8.7 million jobs and serving as the sole goods deliverer for 80% of communities. However, truck driving is also one of the most dangerous jobs, with more annual fatalities than any other occupation.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) reports around 500,000 annual motor vehicle accidents involving trucks. And costs can be big – a fatal crash can cost over $3 million, while a nonfatal accident can cost around $62,000. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that 88% of trucking accidents are caused by a driver’s actions or inactions.

Ensuring that truck drivers follow safe driving habits is essential for everyone’s safety on the road. In addition to regular vehicle maintenance and thorough driver training, employers need to have policies against three of the most common causes of accidents: speeding, fatigue, and distracted driving.

Your Life is More Important Than a Deadline

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that more than one in five of all fatal truck crashes involved a trucker driving over the speed limit or too fast for weather conditions. Speeding accidents can involve anything from not adjusting to the type of load being carried to not slowing down enough for an exit ramp. Drivers may also be speeding to meet deadlines within their restricted driving hours.

The DOT has been trying to address speed safety through a speed-limiting regulation. This law was discussed for several years, with support from trucking companies and traditional safety agencies. Not only would the rule keep speeds down and drivers safer on the road, it could also save over $1 billion a year in fuel.

However, the president recently demoted the rule to a long-term agenda item. It also lost support from trucking companies during the public comment period. At this time, there are no current plans to move forward with a speed-limiting regulation.

A Well-Rested Driver is a Safer Driver

In a study by the DOT, they found that in crashes where the trucker was the main cause of the accident, 87% of crashes were due to driver fatigue. Trying to meet deadlines, driving during normal sleeping hours, and spending long hours on the road are major contributors to driver fatigue. Although the FMCSA restricts the number of hours that truck drivers can be on the road, many drivers exceed that amount to make pressing deadlines.

Truck drivers may think they’re okay to keep driving, but people who have been driving for more than eight hours have double the risk of crashing compared to those who have been driving for less time. Truck drivers need to recognize the signs of fatigue, like yawning, heavy eyes, and slower reaction times, and follow these good habits:

  • Get a good night’s sleep (at least seven hours) before driving
  • Take breaks at least every two to three hours
  • Don’t travel at times when you’d normally be sleeping
  • Pull over and take power-naps when you start feeling drowsy

Focus on the Road, Not Your Phone

An FMCSA study determined that if a truck is traveling at 55 MPH, texting would be the equivalent of driving the full length of a football field without the driver once looking at the road. They also found some other dangerous statistics: when a truck driver reaches for a cell phone, they are 6.7 times more likely to cause an accident; when a truck driver looks at a map, they are 7 times more likely to cause an accident.

Distracted driving has become a big issue for all drivers on the road, from texting and talking on the phone, to fiddling with radio dials and eating. Anything that takes a driver’s eyes from the road increases their risk of an accident. Employers should initiate distraction-free policies to keep their drivers safe. Build time into drivers’ schedules to pull over for meals, rest, map reading, or necessary communication.

 

While a lot of accidents can be controlled by the driver’s behavior, employers can help keep the roads safer by training their employees on safe driving habits. For more information on keeping truck drivers safe and healthy, contact a Concentra workforce health expert.