Trucking Accidents

Four high­way safety groups, Cit­i­zens for Reli­able and Safe High­ways (CRASH), Parents Against Tired Truck­ers (P.A.T.T.), Advocates for High­way and Auto Safety, and Pub­lic Cit­i­zen, are all con­cerned about the amount of hours that truck dri­vers are allowed to drive. Their biggest con­cern is that gov­ern­ment has actu­ally length­ened the num­ber of hours that big rig oper­a­tors can drive per day and per week, rather than reduced them.

In a bill passed in 2003 and mod­i­fied in 2005, 18-wheeler dri­vers are allowed to drive 11 con­sec­u­tive hours, up from the 10-hour max­i­mum estab­lished since 1939. Stats released by the four groups show that deaths in big rig acci­dents increased 3.1% in 2004 over 2003.

Every year, more than 5,000 peo­ple are killed and about 100,000 peo­ple are injured. “In the last ten years, 56,935 peo­ple have died and a mil­lion more were injured in truck crashes in com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try„” said Jackie Gillan, vice pres­i­dent of Advo­cates for High­way and Auto Safety. “Amer­i­can fam­i­lies are pay­ing a steep per­sonal and finan­cial price for this pub­lic health dis­as­ter. Truck deaths are increas­ing, gov­ern­ment safety goals are ignored and enforce­ment of safety rules is sus­pended while spe­cial truck­ing inter­ests con­tinue to push a dan­ger­ous agenda in Con­gress. It’s time to stop cod­dling the truck­ing indus­try and make the safety of all motorists, includ­ing truck dri­vers, a priority.”

Fatigue has long been known to be a fac­tor in a large num­ber of acci­dents. Accord­ing to the safety groups, stud­ies have shown that after just eight hours of dri­ving, con­cen­tra­tion is impaired. Lack of sleep can also impair con­cen­tra­tion (and in some juris­dic­tions can con­sti­tute impaired dri­ving under the law) and can lead to dri­vers falling asleep at the wheel. Both sce­nar­ios can and do result in hor­rific acci­dents with deadly results. But rather than try to decrease the risk by decreas­ing max­i­mum hours, Con­gress has allowed dri­vers to stay on the road even longer.

Not only is the num­ber of con­sec­u­tive hours increased, but the truck dri­ver sched­ule, or “day,” is only 21 hours instead of 24. This means that dri­vers can add an extra 17–18 hours to their work­week, and 70 hours over the course of the month — the­o­ret­i­cally all of these extra hours could be con­sid­ered “impaired” due to lack of sleep and concentration.

“Large trucks are rolling time bombs on our high­ways, with tired truck­ers allowed to work 14 and 16 hours a day under the new DOT rules,” Public Cit­i­zen Pres­i­dent Joan Clay­brook said.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an acci­dent with a large truck, call The Keener Law Firm for a free con­fi­den­tial con­sul­ta­tion at 770–955-3000.