By: Allan M. Siegel
New research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has
taken a closer look at the factors behind commercial
truck accidents. Their findings: vehicle defects and long hours, especially when they
result from short-haul exemptions to federal hours-of-service rules, substantially
increase crash risks.
The IIHs consistently studies crash risks involving tractor-trailers and
other commercial carriers. Throughout the years, the organization has
noted many preventable factors behind collisions involving trucks. Although
new advancements and regulations have improved safety, the new study shows
common dangers such as defective equipment and overworked drivers still
plague the industry.
As part of the study, IIHS researchers partnered with the North Carolina
Highway Safety Research Center to analyze statistics involving nearly
200 truck wrecks, including fatal and serious injury-causing crashes.
They also paid close attention to vehicle defects and the short-haul exemption’s
impact on crash risks.
Not only do vehicle defects still cause crashes, the study notes, they
may even be a more troubling problem than previous research indicates.
For example, an IIHS study from 1987 found truck defects doubled the risk
of crashes. New research now shows
vehicle defects in trucks roughly triple crash risks. The study also noted the following:
- Nearly 75% of trucks involved in studied crashes had vehicle defects identified
during post-crash inspections.
- Vehicles with out-of-service violations had crash risks 4 times greater
than trucks that did not. Out-of-service violations are issued when trucks
are deemed serious hazards. They commonly involve faulty brakes, tire
damage, and inoperable headlights, signals, or brake lights.
- Vehicle defects of any type increased crash risks, including a 50% increased
risk for brake violations.
Research on truck crash data and vehicle defects is crucial to better understanding
risks and shaping solutions that can reduce them. For example, researchers
suggest highway patrol and law enforcement officers are the first line
of defense in getting commercial vehicles with visible defects off the road.
Long Hours & Short-Haul Exemption
Despite mounting evidence that
tired driving can be just as dangerous as driving drunk and strict federal regulations
limiting the time truck drivers can be on the road, long hours and fatigue
continue to be contributing factors in truck wrecks.
Long hours are a particular problem with trucks operating under the short-haul
exemption, which is available to truckers that operate within 100 miles
of their base of operations and work less than 12 hours in a day without
overnight trips. Short-haul trucks are exempted from federal Hours-of-Service
rules and do not have to record service hours.
When it comes to long hours and short-haul trucking, the study noted:
- Drivers on the road at least 12 hours since an extended sleep break were
86% more likely to crash than drivers who had been awake for less than 8 hours.
- Truckers who drove over 5 hours non-stop had double the crash risk of drivers
who drove 1-5 hours.
- Short-haul truckers had close to 5 times the crash risk as drivers who
did not operate under the exemption. Short-haul trucks were also more
likely to have violations during inspections.
Because long hours continue to be a problem in the trucking industry, researchers
are hopeful that tighter regulations and new technologies – including
electronic logging devices – will help reduce the amount of tired
truckers on the road. Unfortunately, the trucking industry consistently
places profits over people and lobbies to roll back many hours-of-service
rules designed to keep the public safe. In fact, lawmakers
recently suspended a provision that mandated two break periods during early morning hours.
Even with regulations and research, truck drivers and companies continue
to cause preventable accidents as a result of negligence and violations.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our legal team has
an in-depth understanding of trucking industry rules, how they are commonly
involved in accidents, and how to help victims in their pursuit of recovering
compensation for their losses.
Contact our firm for a free consultation if you would like to discuss your rights after
a wreck involving a commercial vehicle in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, DC.