About two million registered semi-trucks or 18-wheelers operate on roads and highways, delivering goods and cargo from one city or state to another to make the economy alive and growing. But though the contribution of these huge vehicles to the nation’s economy is definitely substantial, it cannot be denied that these also remain to be sources of threats where road traffic safety is the concern.
Both the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continue to enact and strictly implement laws that would significantly reduce the yearly number of road crashes involving semi-trailers, as well as keep injuries, in the event of accidents, minor. However, despite the laws and the enforcement of these laws, the FMCSA reports that truck accidents continue to injure close to or more than 100,000 individuals and kill about 4,000 others every year. In fact, in 2013, fatal truck accidents claimed 3,964 lives and injured 95,000 other motorists and pedestrians.
Some of the laws created and enforced by the NHTSA and FMCSA are on driver skills and qualification in operating a semi-truck, minimum federal standards on brakes and tires, the maximum nunber of driving hours and required number of rest hours before the next shift, impairment due to alcohol, illegal drugs or over-the-counter/prescription drugs, use of cell phone while behind the wheel, and the removal of bad drivers from the road (this last mandate is actually contained in the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which was passed in 1986).
In 2015, the number of qualified semi-truck drivers was 48,000 – a big concern for many oprerators, actually, who often found themselves in need of more drivers in order to complete job demands and requests. This continuous thinning in the number of qualified (skilled and licensed) truck drivers is actually due to these drivers moving to another field of work for a number of understandable reasons, like: the demands of the job which, very often, required long periods away from family; driving for very long hours alone and then spending sleep and rest periods inside the truck’s sleeper berth; and, the job’s very small pay (many truck drivers remain to be paid “by the mile”, which means that the more miles they cover, the bigger pay they have; however, this “by the mile” pay does not include distance covered when they get lost or when they make a detour for a quick pass at home). Besides, a local job would enable them to earn the same amount of pay with very little stress and not separated from their families.
In order to stay in business and keep the business profitable, some operators or employers resort to unacceptable and, often, illegal, means, like hiring unqualified drivers, failing to properly train drivers, requiring drivers to drive longer than the legally allowed hours of service, allowing drivers to continue driving despite past or very recent traffic violations, failing to properly screen applicants for driving violations records, failing to conduct regular truck checks and maintenance, and not immediately replacing worn out truck parts, especially tires and brakes. Some employers and trucking firms, in order to evade charges and liability towards victims of accidents, also simply re-register under a different name and management.
Though drivers are the ones directly operating trucks, their performance will always be affected by their superiors and the trucking firm where they are employed. Thus, any irresponsible or negligent act by employers can also result to tragic accidents just like errors committed by drivers themselves. In its website, the Sampson Law Firm points out the civil liability of anyone whose actions or failure to act correctly causes injury to innocent victims.Read More