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Articles Posted in Transportation

Like any other drivers here in Kentucky, truck drivers get distracted, fatigued and even impaired, but they still drive. When accidents occur, it is to these factors that you may attribute the crash.

This isn’t always the case, though. Truck drivers can do everything right behind the wheel and still cause you injury. They and others are responsible for the proper securing of their loads. If one has not properly secured a load, it can shift or even fall off the truck. In either case, you could suffer injuries because of the carelessness and negligence of someone else.

Securing a load is a top priority for everyone

No one wants to be involved in a truck accident, least of all a trucker. Unfortunately, industry demands and the pressure from employers to make deliveries on time — despite all risks — can push a truck driver to make poor decisions that put his or her life, and the lives of others, on the line.

According to data collected through 2016, the most recent year available for study, fatal accidents involving trucks are on the rise. While fatalities involving big rigs have yet to reach the level they were in 2005 (when they were at an all-time high), they’re still 29 percent higher than they were in 2009. If the trend continues, the number of fatalities may eventually exceed those 2005 levels.

Causes

If you are a Kentucky driver, you understand there are various hazards and safety threats on the road that could lead to a higher chance of an accident. From distraction to speeding, the actions of other motorists could be a direct threat on your own personal safety and well-being. One of these potential threats is a fatigued truck driver.

Truckers play a crucial role in the American economy. They transport goods across the country and make sure products get to where they need to go, but they also have the responsibility to drive safely and adhere to industry regulations. There are strict rules in place regarding how long a person can drive a truck. While many truckers and trucking companies play by the rules, some of them deliberately ignore the rules.

How serious is the problem?

It isn’t hard to understand why the drivers of passenger cars get nervous when they’re sharing the road with a big rig. The size and weight of a commercial vehicle pretty much guarantee that any accident, if it happens, will be a bad one.

Learn more about some of the top problems that lead to many truck accidents and become more conscious of your role in highway safety.

1. Maintenance issues

Tracy Morgan-the actor and comedian best known for his work on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live-just about lost his life in an accident. Back in 2014, Morgan was a passenger in a limo van on the New Jersey Turnpike when a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer crashed into the van. The impact flipped the Mercedes with Morgan and five other passengers onto its side and smashed it into other vehicles. The crash involved a total of 21 people and 6 vehicles.

Even though Morgan spent two weeks in a coma after the accident and suffered a broken leg, nose, ribs and a traumatic brain injury, he fared better than his friend, James McNair, who died in the impact. It’s only been recently that Morgan has been able to return to performing.

Driver fatigue was the cause

On Dec. 12, two U.S. senators introduced a bill that would require all tractor-trailer trucks to have side and front crash guards. Safety experts say that the proposed legislation would make roads safer in Kentucky and across the country.

Federal statistics show that over 200 Americans are killed in side underride collisions with trucks each year. In this type of accident, a passenger vehicle slides beneath the side of a truck’s trailer. When this occurs, the top of the passenger vehicle can be ripped off, killing the people inside. The National Transportation Safety Board says that side guards would prevent many underride accidents, but the trucking industry has resisted calls to install the safety devices.

To address the issue, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the Stop Underrides Act of 2017. If the bill passes, it will make side guards mandatory on all trucks. Safety advocates claim that the legislation is necessary because the trucking industry refuses to voluntarily install the safety devices. Meanwhile, those who oppose the bill claim that side guards are too costly and could add too much weight to trucks. Rear guards have been required on tractor-trailers since 1998.

Every day in Kentucky, passenger vehicles and large commercial trucks share the roads. The sheer size and weight of large trucks present significant dangers to smaller vehicles. However, drivers can apply strategies that will improve safety.

Drivers need to recognize that tractor-trailers require very long stopping distances. Big rigs can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. These trucks require about 550 feet to come to a stop when traveling at 55 mph. By comparison, a small passenger car only needs 178 feet to stop when moving at 70 mph. For this reason, people should not position themselves immediately in front of trucks. Space is also needed when merging. Drivers should accelerate ahead of an approaching truck to merge.

Maintaining a position next to a truck should be avoided as well. Many blind spots inhibit a trucker’s ability to see other cars, and a crash could happen if the truck needs to change lanes and does not see the car on its left or right. Drivers should pass to the left because the trucker has a better ability to see traffic on the left. Tailgating places drivers in danger of underride accidents, which kill about 200 people annually. To limit this hazard, motorists should maintain safe following distances or pass when possible.

A 2017 study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the safety benefits provided by the installation of side underride guards on semi trucks are similar to those provided by the installation of rear-mounted guards. Lawmakers have announced they intend to introduce a bill to require tractor-trailers to be equipped with side underride guards in an effort to improve roadway safety in Kentucky and across the country.

American Trucking Association has stated that side guards may improve safety, but it was not certain that a legislative mandate was required. According to the ATA, the installation of side guards may cause trailers to deteriorate more quickly, perhaps creating safety risks due to potential failure of a trailer on the road. The ATA said active safety systems, which prevent motor vehicle accidents from occurring, may make more sense than passive systems like side underride guards.

Research by the IIHS indicates that side underride guards may reduce injury risk in side-trailer accidents by approximately 75 percent. In its report, IIHS claimed that side-trailer crashes resulted in 301 fatalities during the period studied.

As affordable housing grows more remote from metropolitan areas, and as the number of workers increases, a corresponding increase in commuting times can be seen. This is true in Kentucky and throughout the United States. Long commuting times have an especially negative impact on commercial truck drivers as they give drivers less time for rest and put them at risk for health conditions like heart disease.

For example, a study analyzing 4,297 adults from 12 metropolitan Texas counties found that drivers with long commutes tend to be overweight, less physically fit and more likely to have high blood pressure. Lack of sleep also leads to fatigued truckers, which can endanger those they share the road with.

As a result, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has stated that it will conduct a survey to gather data about commercial truckers who commute: how many of these drivers commute to work, how far they travel, what time zones they cross and how they feel at the end of the day. The FMCSA is also inquiring into commuting policies among motor carriers.

It is possible for a truck driver to be taken into custody or charged with drug offenses without an employer finding out about it. In some cases, Kentucky or any other state that issued a commercial license may not be notified of the charge either. One man renewed his CDL 10 days after admitting to police that he used heroin after being found unconscious in his rig.

Roughly two weeks after doing so, he was in an accident after overdosing on heroin. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, over 40 percent of drivers who were killed in truck accidents and could be tested had illegal drugs in their systems. In addition to being addicted to heroin or other illegal drugs, drivers may also become addicted to Oxycontin or Percocet. Those are generally legal drugs that drivers may initially take to help with legitimate health issues.

Drug testing alone may not be enough to keep potentially dangerous drivers off of the road. Currently, drivers are tested before they are hired, after they return to work and whenever there is a reasonable suspicion that a driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, communication issues between federal and state agencies may play a role in allowing drivers who have drug or alcohol problems to stay on the road.

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