Driving a Commercial Truck Is Getting More Dangerous
There are numerous reasons why driving a truck is dangerous – for drivers and anyone in the path of the truck. Many truck drivers operate their vehicles while they are tired, even though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has hours of service rules. Many truck drivers are pressured to meet unrealistic delivery schedules.
All drivers of commercial trucks must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Each type of truck requires a unique set of skills. Trucks are more likely to roll over than other vehicles because of the location of the truck’s center of gravity. Trucks have blind spots that make it difficult for drivers to see. The longer the truck, the more distance the truck driver needs to make a proper and safe turn.
A recent report by the New York Times (NYT) reveals that truck driving has become more dangerous due to changes within the trucking industry. Specifically, the support system for truck drivers is evaporating, making driving a truck more lonely and more difficult, with the potential of resulting in more truck accidents.
The truck industry is changing and not for the better
Some of the changes to the trucking industry, according to the NYT, include a severe shortage of skilled truck drivers and supply chain issues. Additionally, the prospect of self-driving trucks not only threatens to discourage new workers, but have their own set of risks to everyone on the road due to potential hardware and software flaws.
Driving trucks across state lines and across the country, including the oil and gas pipeline trucks that leave Oklahoma, requires “an army of truck washers, gas station cashiers, and truck stop custodial staff to help drivers and their cargoes get from Point A to B.”
The FMCSA hours of service rules, enacted in 2013, regulate a driver’s operation hours: “Depending on their companies’ operating hours, truckers are allowed to drive a maximum of 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days. So drivers on these schedules can set their time back to zero with so-called reset breaks. These 34-hour off-duty periods are often spent at truck stops.”
When truckers aren’t driving, they’re often stuck at a nearby truck stop. For many drivers, their trucks are their homes. The cabs serve as bedrooms, living rooms, offices, kitchens, and dining areas. Some truck stops can accommodate hundreds of trucks. Other stops, just a handful of trucks. Per the NYT, “Across the country, entire temporary cities form and disperse daily.”
Truckers encompass all walks of life – many married couples are driving trucks. Students and younger people are driving too. There are truck drivers of all types and ages.
Current issues facing Oklahoma City truckers
Some of the unique challenges that truck drivers face include:
- Eating a healthy diet. Most truckers rely on an unhealthy diet of fast food stops. Drivers say they’d like more variety and more diners. Some drivers try to make do with a small refrigerator and their own groceries. Still, many drivers suffer from obesity, back problems, diabetes, and depression. Many long-haul drivers smoke.
- Buying affordable food. It’s bad enough that available food isn’t healthy. What makes eating on the road even harder is that the cost of food is expensive. The NYT reports the yearly pay for a truck driver in 2021 was $50,340 – about half of what it was in 1980 when adjusted for inflation. New drivers and independent contractors may have to pay for truck maintenance, training fees, and even their fuel. That money doesn’t go very far when it costs $75 to $100 to eat three square meals at a truck stop every day.
- Finding a spot to sleep. According to the American Trucking Association, “over 98 percent of truck drivers have reported having difficulty finding safe parking.” When there aren’t spots, drivers need to stay in vacant lots, highway-on ramps, and other unsafe or illegal spots. It can be extremely hard to sleep if you are on the side of the road where drivers are speeding by at nearly 70 mph.
- Driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents. Driving large trucks is difficult enough when drivers are alert. The New York Times article states that, according to the FMCSA, nearly 13 percent of all truck accidents are due to driver fatigue.
- Driverless trucks. Many truck drivers worry that they will lose their jobs and careers due to truck automation. Some drivers, like Kevin Ransom, hope that by the time automation becomes viable he’ll be able to retire. Ransom told the NYT, “This is all I really want to do…I’ve tried welding. I’ve done carpenter work. I’ve done a variety of manual labor jobs, working in the plants, and I don’t care for it. So I don’t know what else I could do.” Ransom, 46, has been driving for 22 years.
Truckers also experience many other hardships, including being away from family for long stretches of time and sitting for extended periods. Truck drivers also need to take time to keep truck logs. They must maintain their trucks during their travels, which can be extremely dangerous if a truck needs to be taken off the road for repairs but the company says to keep on schedule. Many drivers are asked to help load and unload their trucks, which takes time and can cause injuries.
At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers are strong advocates for truck accident victims and the families of anyone who dies due to a truck accident caused by negligence. We file claims against all responsible including the truck driver, the owner of the truck, the shipper, a trucking broker, and other responsible parties. We demand compensation for all your economic and personal losses, including your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. To schedule a free consultation, contact us or call 405-232-1212 today.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More