Statistics reveal driver fatigue is a huge culprit behind so many trucking accidents today. Yet, despite the data, there’s plenty of pushback against efforts to help decrease drowsy driving accidents.
In 2012, there were 14,000 bus and truck accidents that resulted in roughly 17,000 injuries and 300 deaths. Now, 2 years later, commercial vehicle accident injuries and fatalities have increased.
What’s the culprit? Federal officials point to fatigued driving and say it’s the top reason behind highway fatalities among commercial truck drivers today.
In June of this year alone, drowsy driving accident fatalities occurred in Madison County, Ohio, Austin, Texas, and Marseilles, Illinois. In one specific instance, a 76 year old driver of an 18-wheeler collided into several cars stopped along the Will Rogers Turnpike in Oklahoma after driving for 11 straight hours. The collision killed 10 people.
Yet despite statistic after statistic that reveals just how much fatigue plays a part in auto accidents today, there’s no shortage of pushback against regulations that aim to curb drowsy driving accidents involving CMV drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration often passes regulations that commercial motor vehicle drivers must abide by. Last year, the FMCSA implemented new hours-of-service rules that reduced the number of hours truck drivers were allowed to drive to 70, among other new stipulations. As soon as the rules were proposed, trucking enthusiasts pushed back.
Trucking executives indicated that drivers should not be told “when to rest” and should be given “maximum flexibility.”
Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations and a former governor of Kansas, stated that the problem of truck driver fatigue is overestimated and “mischaracterized.”
One Maine Senator has even taken action to stop the recent HOS rules from taking effect. Last month, he pushed an amendment through the Senate Appropriations Committee to freeze the regulations.
It’s no surprise that the problem with fatigue driving in the U.S. has been brushed under the rug by many trucking enthusiasts; most independent truck drivers make money based on the number of miles they drive. Unfortunately, many simply believe that productivity is more important than mitigating accidents and saving lives.
Underestimating the problem
But safety investigators suggest that the problem is actually far worse than documented. Study after study shows the dangers of drowsy driving, but some argue that fatigue likely plays a part in far more auto accidents than noted. According to president and chief executive with the National Safety Council, there is no blood test for determining fatigue so present estimates are underreported.
For now, the HOS rules stand. It remains to be seen whether stricter regulations will be implemented in upcoming years, but it’s probable. Given the recent trucking accident involving comedian and celebrity Tracey Morgan, public awareness regarding the issue is heightened and will remain in the forefront.