Federal trucking regulations are designed to protect motorists. Ironically and unfortunately, however, truckers trying to make up lost time from new rules requiring rest breaks may be speeding and causing deadly truck accidents.
The regulations restrict driving to 11 hours in a 14-hour period. Truckers must take a 30-minute break after eight hours. Many in the industry believe that truckers are driving at excessive speed to make up the lost time.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that large truck fatalities reached a 29-year high in 2017. That year, large-truck deaths increased to 4,761, which was an increase of 392 from 2016. Truckers comprised approximately 1,300 of these fatalities. The remaining 72 percent of the deaths were occupants of other vehicle involved in these accidents.
Other experts do not attribute this rise to the regulations. According to them, speeding has been the main cause of deaths for many years. However, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, speed was a factor in a declining number of crashes for three straight years. One reason for the decrease may be that speeding truckers are receiving more traffic citations.
Others hold bad driving habits responsible for the increase in fatalities. This includes texting and driving and overreliance on cruise control and other technologies. In at least one case, a trucker driver was seen driving with their feet on the dashboard.
Some industry experts claim that truck driver fatigue contributes to this increase in deaths. Lack of sleep and fatigue is blamed on a lack of safe and accessible rest areas for truckers. Most accidents where fault was placed on a sleepy or fatigued truck driver took place at least 20 miles from a rest area or truck stop, according to a 2017 study.
In addition to additional rest stops, new technologies could reduce these fatalities. This may include equipping trucks and passenger vehicles with automatic emergency braking and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
Victims of truck accidents or their families can face significant damages in the aftermath of a truck accident. Therefore, they should consider seeking immediate legal assistance. A lawyer may be able to help them pursue their right to compensation via a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.