Life is tough for many truck drivers. Trucking companies have, over the course of decades, increased the demands on their drivers, and a career that was once marked by good pay and benefits is now becoming a gig that fewer people want to take on.
The burdens of being a truck driver don’t just impact truckers; they affect everyone on our roads, from pedestrians to bicyclists to other motorists. That’s because big commercial vehicles are deadly when they’re operated by distracted and fatigued drivers.
We all share the road with large trucks, so we all have an interest in making sure that the people who drive those trucks aren’t endangering us because of the demands of their job.
Challenges Facing Truck Drivers
- Fatigue: Long hours behind the wheel, irregular schedules, and the pressure to meet tight delivery deadlines often lead to inadequate rest, increasing the likelihood of drowsy driving crashes. Fatigue is such a dangerous and prominent problem in the trucking industry that the U.S. Department of Transportation has even implemented Hours of Service rules, which dictate how long a driver can operate a vehicle on any given day or in a seven- to eight-day stretch.
- Distraction: Like all motorists, truck drivers can be distracted by mobile devices, passengers, excessive noise, or eating and drinking behind the wheel. And when truckers are spending 40, 50, or 60 hours a week on the road, they are more likely to get bored and distracted. One study found that more than two-thirds of all trucking crashes occurred when truck drivers were distracted.
- Health Problems: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a survey among truck drivers which found that truckers are more likely than other workers to smoke, be overweight, be physically inactive, and have diabetes. These medical conditions can put drivers at risk of crashes and, in some cases, threaten their ability to hold a commercial driver’s license.
- Mental Health Challenges: Truck driving is not just hard on the body but also mentally taxing. Truckers often face mental health struggles due to the solitary nature of their job, which can lead to loneliness, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, chronic sleep issues, and other problems. One survey found that about 28% of truckers reported suffering from loneliness, 27% from depression, 15% from anxiety, and 13% from other emotional issues. These untreated mental health issues can impact driving performance and safety.
- Increasing Demands: The trucking industry is facing a labor shortage of tens of thousands of drivers. The shortage has been ongoing (and increasing) for decades—in part due to the tough work conditions combined with dwindling benefits. In addition, strict delivery schedules place immense pressure on drivers. The long hours behind the wheel, the increase in shipping costs carried by drivers, and the increasing wait times at shipping destinations make driving a semi-truck an increasingly undesirable job.
- Lack of Training: The trucking industry struggles to bring in new labor and retain the drivers it currently has. That means more and more drivers lack experience, and inexperience is one of the biggest predictors of crash risk. New drivers in the trucking industry sometimes enter the field without sufficient supervised on-road training, which means they may be unprepared to handle the vehicle when they encounter unexpected road conditions.
- Unsafe Trucks: Trucking companies are supposed to rigorously inspect and maintain their rigs to ensure safety, but issues such as defective parts and overloaded or improperly loaded trailers can significantly increase the risk of crashes. Unfortunately, maintenance often falls by the wayside when trucking companies try to cut corners, putting truck drivers at risk as well as other road users.
In Large Truck Crashes, Passenger Vehicle Occupants Are Typically Most at Risk
In the vast majority of commercial vehicle crashes, it’s the occupants of the smaller vehicles involved who suffer the most serious injuries. Even the largest SUVs, pickup trucks, and minivans are no match for these 80,000-pound behemoths during collisions. That’s why we all have a stake in the health and well-being of truck drivers.
When you’re involved in a crash with a truck, it’s wise to contact an experienced truck driving lawyer to protect your rights to compensation. Trucking companies and their insurers know how to mitigate their liability and pay injured motorists far less than they deserve.
The damages suffered by injured people in large truck accidents are typically far greater than in crashes involving only passenger vehicles. The injuries tend to be more severe, which means the medical bills and lost income are also much higher. That’s why it’s important to speak to a seasoned Michigan truck accident lawyer immediately after a collision with a commercial vehicle.
IF YOU NEED LEGAL HELP, CONTACT FIEGER LAW
At Fieger Law, we have years of experience holding insurance and trucking companies responsible for the compensation they owe injured motorists. If you’d like a free consultation with our team, contact Fieger Law today to get started.
Originally published April 12, 2021.