Anyone who has driven on our nation’s highways knows how congested they are with 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks. There are over two million 18-wheelers in the United States that transport over 70% of the nation’s freight. Between domestically transported goods and trade with Canada and Mexico, our nation’s freight trucks transport over $1 trillion worth of manufactured goods each year.
Rising Trend In Truck Accidents
While freight trucks are an essential means of transporting goods, they do not come without a cost. Over the past few years, fatal truck accidents involving 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks have been on the rise. As the number of trucks on the road increases, so does the risk that those trucks will be involved in an accident with passenger vehicles.
In 2012, 333,000 commercial trucks were involved in accidents, resulting in over 100,000 injuries and nearly 4,000 fatalities. That represents a 4% increase from the previous year and the trend has not slowed since.
Fatigued Driving Is the Leading Cause of Truck Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) identified driver fatigue as the leading cause of truck accidents. It is estimated that over half of all truck accidents were at least partially a result of fatigued driving. In fact, in an anonymous survey of truck drivers, more than half admitted to have fallen asleep at the wheel at one point or another.
Why Is Driver Fatigue So Common for Truck Drivers?
To understand why there are so many fatigued truck drivers on the road, you need not look any further than how truck drivers are paid. The vast majority are paid by the mile. That means that the more miles they drive, the more money they earn. While this model may make sense for trucking companies looking to improve delivery times, it offers a clear financial incentive for truck drivers to stay on the road even when they are tired or in need of rest. It is an obvious danger to the other drivers who they share the road with.
Current Regulations To Reduce Driver Fatigue Are Ineffective
The problem of driver fatigue is not a new one. As far back as 1995, the NHTSA recognized it as one of the leading safety concerns for truck drivers. There are even federal regulations in place that limit the number of hours a truck driver can operate in a given time period. However, those regulations have proven difficult to enforce.
Current regulations require truck drivers to keep paper logs to record the number of hours they are on the road. As you might guess, paper logs are extremely difficult for regulators to monitor and verify. In many ways, it is essentially nothing more than an honor system that trusts truck drivers and trucking companies to report their hours-of-service accurately. However, anonymous surveys have consistently shown that truck drivers commonly submit falsified paper logs.
Electronic Logging Devices Could Limit Driver Fatigue
Federal regulators have known for years that paper logs are an ineffective way of enforcing hours-of-service regulations. And with the growing problem of driver fatigue and the increase in the number of trucking accidents, new regulations have been introduced that would require trucking companies to install electronic logging devices in all of their commercial trucks. The regulations are expected to be published in September of 2015. Once published, trucking companies will have two years to outfit their trucks with the mandated devices.
Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are a way of recording the actual times that a truck is on the road without having to rely on the truck driver or trucking company to submit accurate driving logs. ELDs are connected to the truck’s engine control module. They automatically record the date, time, and location of the truck at each change of duty status and store that information along with identification numbers of the truck and the driver. They are also equipped with an alert system that warns the driver when they are approaching the hours-of-service limit.
Studies Show ELDs Prevent Truck Accidents
Some major U.S. freight carriers have been using ELDs for a number of years. One company that has been using the devices since 1998, reported a 22% decrease in preventable accidents from 2007-2014 as a result of ELDs and other safety technology. Another study of trucking companies that voluntary used ELDs showed a reduction of over 50% in the number of hours-of-service violations. The FMCSA estimates the requiring ELDs will result in roughly 1,500 fewer truck accidents each year.
Follow this link to read more about hours-of-service regulations.