Time is money to truck drivers who are often paid by the trip rather than by the hour. Compensation by the trip is a telling factor indicative of a turn away from safety in the trucking industry where freight companies have become far less concerned about how a driver gets the product delivered than whether the product is delivered on time. This is simply a recipe for disaster which we have observed first hand when investigating the accidents and catastrophic injuries suffered by our clients who have been involved in accidents with trucks. As a result, trucking accidents resulting from driver fatigue, speed, and driving under the influence of drugs like speed and cocaine are on the rise.
Every year, more than 5,000 people die and 116,000 are injured in truck-related accidents, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
It hasn’t helped that President Bush “has resisted efforts to reduce the number of hours that truckers spend on the road and working.”
[A]dvocates of tighter rules say the administration’s record of loosening standards endangers motorists. The fatality rate for truck-related accidents remains nearly double that involving only cars, safety and insurance groups say. They note that weakening the rules has reversed a course set by the Clinton administration and has resulted in the federal government repeatedly missing its own targets for reducing the death rate.
The permissible hours of service for a truck driver are addressed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in regulations effective 10/1/05. These regulations permit truck drivers to stay on the roads for 11 hours straight and 60 hours in a 7 day week although loopholes have been created to increase these hours under qualifying circumstances.
The bottom line is that when profit is put before safety we all suffer and the proof is in the numbers:
From 1992 through 2001, roadway crashes were the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the U.S., accounting for 13,337 civilian worker deaths (22% of all injury-related deaths).
Truck drivers, who are included among Transportation/Material Mover occupations, had a rate of 17.6 deaths per 100,000 FTE, a rate considerably higher than that for this occupation group as a whole.
Vehicles occupied by fatally injured workers were most often semi-trucks (3,780, 28%), cars (3,140, 24%), other and unspecified trucks (2,359, 18%), and pickup trucks (1,607, 12%).
Between 1992 and 2001, truck occupant deaths increased, as car occupant deaths decreased.
Crashes involving large trucks (more than 10,000 lb. gross vehicle weight rating) were 7 times as likely to be fatal to other motorists as to truck occupants. An average of 4,425 motorists involved in collisions with large trucks died each year from 1992 through 2001, compared to 681 large-truck occupants.