Did you know that someone is killed or injured in an accident involving large truck nearly every sixteen minutes? While tractor-trailers and semi-trucks account for less than three percent of the vehicles on U.S. roadways, they contribute to a sizable number of fatalities and injuries.
In Georgia, more than 200 fatal accidents involve large trucks every year, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. Common causes of truck accidents include speeding, driver fatigue and equipment failure.
To help improve truck safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) — the agency tasked with overseeing commercial vehicles — has issued a number of new regulations in recent years. Some of the most significant changes include:
Hours-of-service requirements — The rule restricts the average workweek for truck drivers to 70 hours and requires drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift. The safety regulations are designed to ensure that all truck operators have adequate rest prior to hitting the road. The FMCSA estimates that estimated that the regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.
Mandatory alcohol and drug testing — The rule requires that all commercial drivers submit to mandatory alcohol and drug testing. Truck carriers are required to test their drivers prior to employment, when they reasonably suspect that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, after involvement in a fatal accident, and on a random and unannounced basis.
Cell phone use restrictions — The rule prohibits drivers from texting or otherwise using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a commercial truck or bus. The regulations reflect the risks posed by distracted driving. In the context of commercial drivers, studies have shown that reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, increases the risk of a crash by three times, while dialing a phone increases the risk of a crash six-fold.
The sheer size and weight of a tractor-trailer makes it among the most dangerous vehicles on the road. When accidents occur, the results are often devastating. Those lucky enough to survive often face serious and life-altering injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, paralysis and amputation.