Potential for Truck Accidents During Increased Driving Time
Over the past few months, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been infecting people in more and more countries, now more than 150. These include the United States, where the infection rate has been spiking as it has elsewhere.
One industry feeling the pressure is the trucking industry. The health of truckers is being potentially affected not only by the virus but by the strains of long-haul trucking under these difficult circumstances.
Some trucking regulations have been suspended.
Decades ago, federal authorities imposed strict rules on the number of hours a truck driver could work continuously in order to reduce the number of fatigued drivers of big rigs on the roads.
The hours-of-service rules in their most recent form required that drivers work a maximum of 11 out of 14 hours, take a half-hour break after working eight hours, and take a ten-hour break after working 14 hours. (The rules are controversial; some drivers claim that such a fixed timetable can make them more fatigued than necessary.)
As the federal government has occasionally done in other emergency circumstances, the Trump administration has now suspended the HOS so that emergency medical supplies and other urgently needed supplies can reach destinations faster. According to Sean McNally, a spokesman for the America Trucking Associations:
“Waivers of this type are a common response by FMCSA to natural disasters and crises because trucks delivering food, fuel and medicine are a critical part of the response. This waiver will help keep loads of medicine, supplies and food moving as the country manages this current pandemic.”
Trucks transport some 70 percent of the nation’s goods, from medical supplies to groceries. “Without trucking, we would be naked, starving, and homeless,” says truck driver Mike Robbins.
So keeping the supply chain moving is a top priority. But drivers of other vehicles who are now sharing more of the road with large trucks should be aware that the big-rig drivers are now likely to be working extended hours.
Having more 18-wheelers on the road means a greater risk of deadly truck accidents.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that in 2018, there were 2,786 fatal accidents involving large trucks in the United States. Many took place in Colorado, especially during the colder months. Drivers say that black ice and high winds make some Colorado trips treacherous.
But not all fatal Colorado truck accidents are caused by driving conditions. For example, last summer, a fiery crash along I-70 near Denver killed four people. Although the driver was alleged to have been speeding, he claims that the brakes of the truck were not working correctly.
During the current crisis, both truck drivers and drivers of other vehicles should be extra cautious. If you’re a car driver sharing the road with a big rig, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recommends that you:
- Stay out of the trucker’s blind spots. Cars have blind spots on two sides; trucks have blind spots on all four sides. Make sure you don’t travel in an area where the truck driver can’t see you. For example, don’t follow the truck too closely.
- If you must pass a truck, make sure the driver sees you before you switch lanes. And never pass a truck on a downgrade, when a truck will tend to speed up. Since a truck needs more room than a car or motorcycle to slow down or come to a stop, movements that are too sudden could cause an accident.
- If you are next to an 18-wheeler that needs to turn, keep in mind that trucks need much more room than your car does to executive that turn. So give the trucker plenty of space.
These and other tips are especially worth reviewing if you must travel a great deal during this crisis.