There are many potential causes for a trucking accident – mechanical malfunction, driver fatigue, and road conditions, among others. According to reports by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were more fatalities related to truck accidents in 2018 than any year since 1988. The number of fatalities involving crashes had risen for the fourth year in a row, with pedestrian deaths involving trucks increasing 13% over the previous year alone. Driver error was a contributing factor in most of these fatal crashes that involved large trucks.
One eye opening federal study monitored 80 truck drivers over 7,500 hours of truck driving. The study found that the drivers averaged only 4.8 hours of sleep per day, and more than half experienced at least one 6-minute interval of drowsiness while at the wheel.
Drowsy driving can have deadly consequences. Being awake for at least 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A comprehensive study of 120,000 crashes involving large trucks found that 13% of the truck drivers were fatigued at the time of their accident.
Online shopping, which is increasing the number of trucks carrying those orders on the road, is at an all-time high as people avoid shopping in person and increasingly use online orders for everything from toilet paper to holiday gifts. COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of e-commerce, as reported by Forbes. Total online spending in May hit $82.5 billion, up 77% year-over-year.
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis and increased demand, the Department of Transportation suspended some regulations requiring drivers to take off-road breaks while making deliveries. Usually, drivers are only permitted to work 14-hour days and can spend only 11 of those actually driving. But those “hours of service” regulations no longer apply to drivers transporting full loads of emergency supplies, like medical equipment related to COVID-19, masks and gloves, groceries, fuel, and equipment for building temporary housing or quarantine spaces. This suspension of safety regulations has the potential to increase driver fatigue, which could in turn increase truck accidents.
CED’s engineers are experienced with investigating vehicle crashes, including large-scale accidents involving commercial vehicles. The engineers in the CED Transportation Group complete training specific to these accidents. Using the latest tools and technology, the Transportation Group reviews all components of a crash to find the cause, including analyzing perception and reaction time in order to determine if fatigue may have caused or contributed to the accident.
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