All car accidents can be devastating. But when one of the vehicles in the accident weighs 40 tons (average weight of a semi-truck), the chance for serious injury goes through the roof.
Earlier this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a study that supports their new “hours-of-service” rule, aimed at cutting down the number of drowsy truckers. According to the findings, the new rule may prevent 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries, and save 19 lives each year.
But there’s a problem the trucking industry faces that may hamper this progress – driver shortage, which could result in some ignoring the new rule or putting more inexperienced drivers on the road.
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, click here to contact a NC truck accident lawyer.
Truck Accident Statistics in NC and Nationwide
In 2012, truck accident statistics rose across the nation. In North Carolina the number of fatalities from truck accidents rose by 30%.
Nationwide, 3,921 people were killed in truck accidents that year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This was a 4% increase from 2011. The number of injuries increased even more – 18% – from 88,000 injuries in 2011 to 104,000 truck accident injuries in 2012.
It’s worth noting that other parties often suffer the worst damages. According to the NHTSA, only 18% of those killed in truck accidents were the truck drivers. 73% were occupants of other vehicles and 10% were non-occupants (such as pedestrians).
New Hours-Of-Service Rule for Trucking Companies
In July 2013, the FMCSA enacted their new “hours-of-service” rule, imposing tighter limits on how long truckers could drive without a break. The new rule:
- Decreases the maximum average work week hours from 82 to 70.
- Allows drivers to resume after 70 hours, only if they have rested for 34 consecutive hours, “including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most – from 1-5 a.m.”
- Requires drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
- Retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.
The study released earlier this year specifically mentions that drivers who took a 34-hour restart – getting two nights of rest instead of just one – were more focused, less sleepy, and showed less lane deviation.
It was one of the largest real-world studies ever conducted with commercial motor vehicle drivers, according to the FMSCA.
Truck Driver Shortages Creates Safety Concerns
In North Carolina, truckers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive large trucks and tractor-trailers. It is generally customary for companies to also require up to a year or two of driving experience.
Unfortunately, trucking companies are having serious problems finding enough people to do transport jobs. A shortage of qualified drivers was described as the third most critical issue facing the trucking industry in 2013.
Faced with a limited talent pool and too few truckers willing to do the job, some employers may be tempted to pressure current workers to drive more than they should or lower their standards and hire drivers who may not have as much experience.
The trend of increasing truck accidents could thus continue, with motorists paying the price with their health or their lives.
NC Truck Accident Lawyers
If a truck driver causes a collision because he or she is drowsy, inexperienced or negligent in general, both the driver and the trucking company can be held legally liable.
Typically there are insurance policies to cover this sort of negligence, but the insurance companies can be very aggressive in their defense and evidence can disappear very quickly in our experience.