When are Truck Drivers Most At-Risk?

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According to a United States Bureau of Labor Statistics report published late last year, driving a commercial truck is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. In fact, among jobs where workers operate independently, it is considered the deadliest. In 2018, truckers had the most fatalities of all detailed occupations, more than 800 in fact. What makes the job so risky, and when are truckers the most vulnerable? Knowing more about when and why truck accidents are more likely to occur can help prevent deadly crashes and save lives every year.

Driving Habits Change Throughout Trucking Shifts

The trucking fleet technology firm, Samsara, analyzed truck driver behavior from data collected during their shifts and uncovered some interesting patterns. They found drivers are more likely to take risks or drive unsafely at the start and the end of their shifts. To get this information, Samsara tapped into their own data gathered from on-board systems and compared the occurrence of unsafe habits during the first tenth of the shift, the last tenth, and the middle. Researchers studied the following:

  • Harsh acceleration
  • Harsh braking
  • Distracted driving
  • Tailgating

These reckless driving events were 26 percent more likely to occur during the first tenth of a shift and more than 41 percent likely during the last tenth of a shift. Harsh accelerating and harsh braking were more common at the end of drivers’ routes. A Samsara spokesperson stated that although it was impossible to determine exactly why truckers were more likely to take risks at those times, it is believed that urban traffic, fatigue, and last-mile stops were contributing factors. Surprisingly, the length of a shift does not seem to play a role. Unsafe habits were prominent in shifts as short as two to four hours and as long as 12 hours. Efforts to meet delivery deadlines on time or even ahead of schedule may motivate drivers to drive faster and more aggressively.

Health Risks Facing Today’s Truck Drivers

Driving an enormous commercial truck takes incredible skill and specialized training. The average semi-truck or 18-wheeler can weigh anywhere between 35,000 to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. The job, and the responsibility and risks that come with it, can be both mentally and physically taxing. Sitting for hours with little time for rest, combined with the lack of access to healthy meals, leaves many truck drivers with chronic health problems. Research shows truck drivers, more than people in other professions, are at risk of the following health concerns:

Depression: For many truckers, being away from family and friends can lead to isolation and depression. Irregular schedules and time away from home cause many drivers to leave mental health issues untreated.

Musculoskeletal injuries: Sitting for hours at a time, along with loading and unloading cargo, can lead to neck and back injuries. Drivers should be especially mindful of maintaining good posture and taking time to stretch and move around whenever possible.

Obesity: According to CDL Knowledge, nearly three-quarters of truck drivers are overweight, and half are obese. Drivers who do not stock plenty of healthy options in their rig are left to eat on the road, where greasy, high-calorie fast food is the most convenient choice.

Smoking-related conditions: An estimated 60 percent of drivers smoke cigarettes. Smoking increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

Sleep problems: Truck drivers are also likely to experience sleep deprivation and sleep apnea, in which the person stops and restarts breathing during sleep. Frequent interruptions caused by sleep apnea keep sufferers from getting a good night’s sleep and feeling rested the next day. Fatigued driving is very dangerous and increases the chance of a serious truck accident.

Stress: Many of the health problems noted above are stress-related in some way. Being away from family, dealing with traffic, and poor eating and sleeping habits all contribute to stress.  Drivers should find healthy ways to manage stress. Meditation, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are a good start.

Driving a truck for a living does not necessarily have to be incompatible with a healthy lifestyle. Every driver should make their mental and physical well-being a priority. Trucking employers need to set drivers up for success by encouraging them to practice good habits on the road.

Ways to Reduce the Risk of Truck Accidents

Truck accidents generally cause more physical injuries and property damage than crashes involving passenger cars, vans, and SUVs. The size and weight of trucks make them more challenging to maneuver and adds to the force they carry on impact with other vehicles.

To reduce the likelihood of a crash and keep truck drivers and others traveling around them safe from harm, trucking owners and operators should incorporate the following measures:

Training: Drivers should consider the benefits of pursuing additional safety training beyond the minimum required to earn a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The National Safety Council and other agencies offer continuing online and practical truck safety programs to keep drivers’ skills sharp.

Technology: Since 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required all new commercial trucks be equipped with electronic stability control systems. This is just one of several innovative technologies available in newer trucks to compensate for human error and improve safety. Collision avoidance systems detect a possible collision and prevent it by braking automatically, adjusting cruise control when traffic is ahead, and alerting the driver when a crash is imminent. If more truck owners installed crash avoidance systems in their fleets, the National Transportation Safety Board estimates 80 percent of accident fatalities could be prevented.

Lifestyle: As noted, truck drivers are significantly more likely to suffer obesity, sleep apnea, and other serious health problems compared to those in other professions. These conditions can force drivers to miss work or compromise their ability to safely do their job. Fortunately, many physical ailments and diseases can be prevented or managed with a healthy lifestyle. A nutritious diet, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep are just as essential to drivers as proper training and a well-maintained rig.

Driving a large commercial truck comes with hazards not found in many other professions. It is tough on the body and mind. Some drivers take unnecessary risks and drive carelessly because they are in a hurry to complete their route, or because they are stressed or overtired. Those risks may result in serious truck accidents.

Legal Claims for Truck Accident Injuries

Careless truck drivers are a threat to everyone they encounter. Anyone who has been involved in a truck accident, even a minor one, knows how frightening it can be. Beyond the physical pain and suffering, injured accident victims must contend with large trucking fleets, their attorneys, and insurance companies if they hope to recover damages. To protect their rights to a claim against a reckless truck driver or trucking company, anyone involved in an accident should take the following steps after a crash:

  • Seek medical attention
  • Call the police
  • Document any injuries
  • Notify their insurance company
  • Contact an experienced truck accident lawyer

Most lawyers will advise their clients to avoid speaking with the truck driver’s lawyer or their insurance company or accept any financial settlement without discussing it with their attorney. Although a settlement may seem like the easiest and quickest way to financial recovery, it is not always the smartest choice. After all, the insurance company’s goal is to pay out as little as possible.

Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Clients Move Forward After a Truck Accident

The Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton know truck drivers have a duty to drive sober, safe, and alert. When they disregard that duty, they should be held responsible. We utilize all the legal tools available to prove your case and recover the highest compensation possible for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. To learn more about your rights as an injured accident victim, call 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood and Elkridge.