July 2008

Big Trucks and Busses Continue to Account for Too Many Serious Highway Accidents

Much of American commerce is carried by big trucks on our highways, but far too many major accidents occur involving negligence or even reckless indifference by truckers and trucking companies. Truckers are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations which contain many requirements from checking the safety equipment on trucks before a truck leaves the yard, to hours of operation, to loading safety.

Now a new United States safety study which was obtained by the Associated Press has found that many drivers are violating the rules by driving while sick. This is sometimes done with the complicity of medical doctors who approve long term conditions such as those that cause periodic black outs, or with the consent of the trucking company that allows a sick driver to go out on the road.

Fatigue has long been recognized as a major factor in accidents involving over the road truck drivers. These drivers are on the road for many hours each week with a maximum of 70 allowed under Federal regulations in an 8 day period. Unfortunately the hours per day requirement has been relaxed by the Administration so that drivers are no longer limited to 8 consecutive hours on the road but may now drive 10. Nevertheless, fatigue is often a cause of serious accidents caused by inattentiveness, falling asleep at the wheel, or inadequate surveillance of the highway. The current study reported by the AP suggests another significant causative factor as sick drivers fatigue more rapidly and take over the counter medications. When a driver is sick the tendency to shortcut safety inspections and become overly tired on the road increases significantly.

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