Over the past few years in the United States, no industry has grown quite like the trucking industry. The nation moves over 70% of its shipping freight via trucks, and the trucking industry alone generated $700 billion dollars in 2015. This boom opened up a massive job market for individuals looking to get into shipping, logistics, and an increase in job vacancies for drivers, at more than 115,000 vacancies in 2015 alone.
With an estimated 8.9 million people employed in truck-related jobs, it’s important for those involved and behind the wheel and in the trucking company offices to keep safety as their number one priority. As California truck accident attorneys, unfortunately we see too many instances where safety has been considered far behind profit, and serious personal injuries and deaths have occurred.
Just How Safe Is Trucking In California?
Based solely on the sheer amount of hours spent behind the wheel, it’s no mystery how common truck related accidents are. In 2009, large trucks were involved in 286,000 crashes, resulting in 74,000 injuries, and 3,000 casualties. And, although trucking is still booming, California was recently dubbed by Merchant Cash USA as the worst state in the nation to own a trucking company or to be a truck driver. But why? Because commercial trucks are so large and have such a high potential for causing serious injuries and deaths, the trucking industry is heavily regulated both on a California and Federal level, but as the trucking industry becomes increasingly competitive, not all truckers or trucking companies are following the rules. And the rules of the road are designed to protect the public by ensuring that the trucking industry is made as safe as we can make it. Sadly, without all of the trucking industry following the rules, California trucking is not as safe as it could be.
Truck accidents are terrible for the truck operators and also for the trucking companies. With fare hikes, personnel turnover, new equipment, and maintenance, a truck accident just adds to the financial (as well as personal) liabilities a trucker or trucking company can face. And NHTSA reports California as the second most dangerous state to drive in, with 2,715 fatal accidents annually, 235 involving commercial trucks, so we have a potentially dangerous situation on the road.
So Why Are Commercial Trucks So Dangerous?
First of all, large commercial trucks are far more complicated to operate than a passenger vehicle and they are so large that if a collision occurs, there is a higher likelihood of serious injuries or wrongful death. One of the leading cause of truck-related accidents is human error. Truckers work long hours, often driving too long without sleep, and they can push themselves much too hard and much too far for their own, and other’s, good. The commercial truck industry regulations seek to help truckers avoid fatigue and other causes for truck crashes. The biggest cause of commercial truck accidents is fatigue, along with other health related problems that can impact a driver’s competence behind the wheel. Eighteen wheeler operators fall asleep, becomedisabled by seizures, heart attacks, and other forms of impairment which lead to low or non-performance, and truck crashes. Add to the above risk factors some bad driver decisions, such as driving too fast, not maintaining a proper lookout, or being distracted, and its easy to see how we can have many serious injuries as well as deaths caused by commercial trucks. Sometimes, the pressure placed upon drivers to move goods within a certain amount of time contributes to the drivers’ not following the rules related to driving hours and fatigue. And many drivers simply falsify their log books or keep two sets of log books to keep their activities looking legal. To combat the increasing danger of fatigued truckers, it’s important that all drivers and trucking companies adhere to the 11 hour driver restrictions, and that they all cooperate to make sure that drivers get needed rest instead of falling asleep behind the wheel or just being too drowsy to drive safely. Also, trucking companies must allow adequate time for deliveries to be completed in a safe manner. If a truck driver needs to speed to his destination, the risk of a truck accident is greatly increased. While being competitive is great, truck drivers and trucking companies must not put profits over safety.
How Can Fellow Drivers Help?
It’s important for the trucking community to help each other out, whether by driving safely or by encouraging rest and healthy habits, or by simply following the rules of the road and setting a good example. Commercial trucking safety begins at the trucking company with good rules, regular safety meetings, actual enforcement of the rules, and continuing education of the drivers and company safety officers. Drivers can help others by avoiding dangerous driving maneuvers, especially when other truckers are present. By ensuring that every truck is stocked with proper safety equipment, and by each driver giving wide berth to other trucks and those with whom they share the road, and by trucking companies regularly enforcing maintenance and equipment checks, the trucking industry can help to prevent California truck.
As a California truck accident attorney, I see that there are many ways drivers can stay safe, avoid accidents, and prevent the unnecessary loss of life as well as the avoidable costs of road damage and the delay from crashes. Even though the California trucking industry faces challenges, the trucking industry must put safety first, and foremost, and take all steps possible to avoid injury or death of truckers as well as those with whom they share the road.