Last month, the Associated Press reported that the Department of Transportation is taking steps to relax regulations on how many hours truck drivers can put in before they have to go off duty. The proposed changes have safety advocates worried.
Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of collisions involving large trucks. Pressured to deliver valuable cargo on time, drivers may forgo sleep in favor of meeting employer expectations. In a worst-case scenario, they become so exhausted that they fall asleep behind the wheel and cause a fatal accident.
Years ago, the federal government responded by limiting how many hours a long-haul trucker could drive during a 14-hour period. Those driving over eight hours have to take a 30-minute break before reaching the eight-hour mark. After 11 hours, they must clock off for 10 consecutive hours before they can resume their journey or start a new one. Drivers who violate the rules can be put out of service for a day or more.
The trucking industry has been pushing for these federal guidelines to be relaxed, but the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and other safety groups are concerned that a more flexible approach could lead to deregulation, and the statistics suggest that the current regulations might not be strict enough.
U.S. Trucking Accident Statistics
A recent report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows that fatal collisions involving large trucks are on the rise. In 2017, there were 4,237 fatal large truck crashes and 344,000 accidents that resulted in injury, which is a 10% increase from 2016.
Below is a list of statistics for the fatal 2017 collisions:
- 57% happened in rural regions
- 27% took place on interstate highways
- 83% occurred between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
- 60 of the truck drivers were either asleep or exhausted when the crash occurred. The National Transportation Safety Board has suggested, however, that the real number is likely higher, noting that driver fatigue is not always mentioned in police reports.
Maine Trucking Accident Statistics
The Maine Department of Transportation compiled a report of motorcycle and truck crash data for the 2013-2017 period. A total of 9,128 truck accidents occurred, 1,720 of which (18.84%) resulted in injury and 75 of which (0.82%) were fatal.
- The majority of accidents (2,463) took place in Cumberland County, which was also the site of the highest number of fatal accidents (10).
- 68 of the 75 fatal crashes happened in rural areas.
- The highest number of accidents occurred in February (1,096) followed by December (1,054).
- More crashes took place on Tuesday than any other day of the week.
- 71 drivers were asleep or fatigued when the accident occurred.
- 2,358 of all accidents involved single-unit trucks (two axles and six tires)
- Unlike the national statistics, which reported higher accident rates between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., 80% of Maine truck crashes happened between 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
What’s the Bottom Line?
The growing number of trucking accidents has been attributed to exhausted drivers and a disregard for the current hours-of-service regulations, which is why the proposed changes have safety organizations concerned. An FMCSA spokesperson told the Associated Press that these changes, which have yet to be made public, are currently under review by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.
You need a strong and committed personal injury team if a crash leaves you injured and unable to work or enjoy daily activities.
At Fales & Fales, P.A., we know that these cases can be challenging. Insurance companies and truck carriers will fight to avoid liability, so you need an attorney who will fight aggressively for your rights. We know how to investigate the circumstances surrounding Maine truck accidents and develop a compelling case. To speak with an attorney at our firm, please contact us.