We’ve all been in this situation – driving on the interstate at the speed limit or with the traffic flow, when we glance into our rear view mirror to see a double tractor trailer truck bearing down on us as if our car was invisible. We may have some vague recollection of the long distances a multi-ton truck travelling 75 miles per hour needs to stop, and hope that the aggressive truck driver is at least wide awake. It turns out that sleep deprivation as well as a lack of concern for the safety of fellow drivers, may be involved in the trucker’s dangerous conduct.
In 2006, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wrote a report for Congress based on a comprehensive study of large truck crashes, “large trucks” being any trucks weighing at least 5 tons. The study concluded that the most significant cause of large truck crash fatalities or large truck crashes causing incapacitating injuries (more than half of the nearly 1,000 large truck roadway accidents studied resulted in death or severe injury), was driver conduct. Tail-gating, speeding, aggressiveness, overuse of prescription and non-prescription drugs, and fatigue, were all causes of devastating large truck crashes, cited in the study.
Last month, the FMCSA took action to reduce the role of driver fatigue in large truck crashes. The federal agency, which has the authority to regulate interstate trucking companies, issued a regulation limiting drivers to no more than 11 hours of driving per day. After driving 11 hours, truck drivers would need at least 10 hours of rest before returning to the road. According to FMCSA officials, the new regulations were based on an exhaustive review of scientific data regarding the impact of adequate, and inadequate, rest on truck driver safety. While the new regulations won’t rid the highways of irresponsible big rig drivers, they are an important step toward lessening the danger from large trucks.