Trucking Company and Truck Driver Safety
Taking to the wheel of a semi, tractor trailer, or 18-wheeler requires much more than driver awareness; it also requires proper safety measures on behalf of the trucking company and all those in charge of vehicle maintenance and loading or unloading the freight to be transported. Trucks carrying heavy cargo or hazardous materials that can jeopardize the health or wellbeing of other motorists or society, must abide by strict measures and ensure proper loading and unloading procedures. Cargo must meet the required weight limits by not exceeding their load capacity. Furthermore, cargo must be securely fastened, and precautionary steps should be taken in the event of an accident or an unexpected or aggressive maneuver that ends in a rollover or cargo spillage. Hazardous materials such as chemical substances, fuels, or other liquids, must be properly loaded and transported in containers that are prepared to withstand the impact from an accident or controlled if spilled onto roadways. Though driver negligence is top of mind when it comes to a trucking accident, they are not always at fault. Third-party negligence plays a huge part in many trucking accidents on Florida roadways. Poor weather conditions may also place truck drivers at high risk of suffering an accident. Large rigs that are hauling heavy cargo are very difficult to maneuver under heavy rains or poor road conditions in which they must make aggressive maneuvers such as sudden stops or diversions. In this article we will look at some of the causes behind trucking accidents and how they can be adverted.
Before looking at some of the reasons behind trucking accidents, it’s important to note that some 500,000 trucking accidents take place every year in the U.S.A. Sadly, close to 10% of those in tragically and with some 800 truck drivers killed yearly from truck related accidents. This is because when a truck slams into a passenger vehicle or motorcycle, the chances of suffering a fatality are very high, especially when accidents occur at high speeds and on highways or in rural areas; which account for close to 65% of all fatal trucking accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, passenger vehicles represent 98% of all truck accident victims. Nevertheless, truck drivers and trucking companies are not always at fault. Let’s look:
Trucking and Poor Weather Conditions
Though operating a motor vehicle amid poor weather conditions requires much greater care and attention, it is not always the cause of trucking accidents. In fact, more trucking accidents happen on dry roads under clear skies than in bad weather and wet roads. Why? Basically, because velocities increase when road conditions are good and speed is a determining factor behind almost all accidents, regardless if they involve trucks, cars, or motorcycles. Vehicles traveling at high speeds are much harder to slow down or handle in case sudden maneuvers are required to advert an accident or prevent a collision. Sadly, large trucks, especially those hauling heavy cargo, are much harder to handle and many times must collide in order to avoid losing control of the vehicle, which may cause a rollover accident and spillage of its cargo. Cargo that spills onto roadways may cause even further mayhem and result in more vehicles colliding. Furthermore, truck drivers, especially those that drive cautiously, operate their trucks at lower speeds under poor road or weather conditions. This helps them lower their chances of being involved in a trucking accident. However, that doesn’t always hold true for truck drivers that operate their vehicle negligently by driving while fatigued, under the influence, or even distracted by cell-phone use. Spending long hours behind the wheel and under poor weather conditions can increase fatigued and lead to distraction. Truck drivers must always stay alert, regardless of the weather. However, when the weather is poor, third party negligence by other motorists plays a huge part. Passenger vehicles such as sportscars and SUV drivers tend to disregard poor weather and operate at speeds not recommended for poor road conditions. Braking and handling are very important issues to consider when operating at high speeds on a highway. Visibility is reduced, thus, a truck operating at a slow speed might appear suddenly before a motorist approaching at a high speed. This will most likely result in a rear-end collision or sudden maneuver which will probably cause an accident involving several vehicle. When trucks are operating along highways or rural roads, it is highly recommended to proceed with caution and drive safely.
Trucking (Dimensions and Cargo)
Trucking companies and operators must make sure that they’re cargo is properly loaded and fastened. There are limits to the amount of weight, height, length, and overall mass of the cargo to be transported from one place to another. Furthermore, trucks, such as semi and tractor-trailers, must abide by Federal controls regarding weight, given that not all highways are designed to withstand the weight of extremely large trucks and their hefty loads. The Federal Government for instance, limits the weight of trucks on interstate highways to 20,000 lbs. for one-axle trucks, and a limit of 34,000 lbs. for dual axle trucks, with the maximum gross weight of a truck and its cargo limited to 80,000 lbs. when operating on the National Network. Though legal dimensions and weights may vary within the US, a vehicle which surpasses the allowed dimensions usually needs a special permit and added fees for legally traveling on roadways, and this may apply to certain schedules and timetables. With regards to the length of semitrailers and semitrailer combinations, they are limited to 59 feet and a truck or pole trailer combo may not surpass 65 feet. A truck and semitrailer combination may not exceed 65 feet in overall length. With regards to height, the limit stands at 13 ft, 6 in. in most states and 14 ft in others. This includes the cargo load dimensions height as well. That said, It is also vital for cargo to be fitted and fastened properly, as well as to make sure any hazardous substances are stored in containers that can absorb impact in the event of an accident that results in cargo spillage or rollover.
Trucking company owners and operators must guarantee that the vehicles operating along US highways and roads are in proper operating conditions. This includes regular maintenance of the trucks most important parts and safety equipment.
This may include:
- Control panels and dash instruments
- Fire or emergency equipment
- GPS services
- And more.
Trucks involved will almost always be subject to investigation by insurance providers and the authorities. If found at fault for operating vehicles which are not road-worthy, the trucking company will have to compensate injured parties and those that have suffered damages or losses as a result from negligence. Trucking companies must make sure the vehicles that take to the road are safe and well-maintained, if not, they will be sued and held legally liable.
Truck Driver Negligence
Human error is behind almost every trucking accident, be it the trucking company’s negligence to make sure their vehicles are safe and properly loaded, to guaranteeing that the driver is mentally and physically sound to operate a large truck on a public highway or street. It goes without saying that truck drivers must endure extreme conditions through fatigued brought about by long hours behind the wheel and on the road, as well as negligence by consuming alcohol or substances that may hinder their ability to drive properly. Whatever the case, truck drivers are exposed to these from of negligence. There are laws that limit the number of hours a driver may operate a truck without resting. In fact, the law states that a driver may not be behind the wheel for more than 168 in a two-week period. In other words, drivers may not drive over 11 hours during a duty period of 14 hours. During said time, the truck driver must rest 30 minutes for every 8 hours of driving. According to the 70–hour rule, a driver may not drive more than 70 hours in a period of 8 days. Though many exceptions apply and rules vary according to the number of hours a driver can operate a truck without stopping for a break, the best rule of thumb for trucking companies is to make sure they hire responsible drivers and limit the hours their drivers will spend behind the wheel by allocating flexible delivery deadlines. This will help ease the stress of arriving on time and give the drivers the freedom to rest when they feel they may nod off at any time.
When behind the wheel of a large truck carrying valuable or hazardous cargo, it’s better to be safe than sorry.