Every year, hundreds of thousands of motorists are injured in trucking accidents, some even fatally. There is a definite problem on U.S. roadways with regard to truck safety, one that has resulted in an increase in federal safety regulations. Yet many feel these regulations are not actually addressing the main problem, which is a lack of driver training. The majority of truckers and many safety advocate groups, as well as trucking accident lawyers, feel that the key to reducing these deadly crashes is by insisting on better driver training.
Some Trucking Accident Statistics
In the U.S., there are currently approximately 2 million1 tractor trailer trucks in operation. There are 3.5 million truck drivers who collectively drive all types of commercial trucks, including tractor trailers. These trucks and drivers account for over 30,000 injuries and nearly 700 fatalities2 each year. A large number of these trucking accidents are caused by operator fatigue, distraction, and other driver errors due to inexperience and lack of skills3.
The Problem of Unskilled Drivers
Based on researched causes of many of these crashes, combined with the current driver shortage, there is a definite suggestion that driver skill plays a large part in the frequency of tractor trailer accidents. As most trucking accident lawyers already know, a lack of experience driving these huge vehicles increases the likelihood that crashes will occur.
Many in the commercial carrier industry agree that a lack of training is a huge factor in accident rates. They argue that the licensing requirements to operate a big rig are too lax, and that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) should increase them to include 30 hours of on-the-road training, at the minimum. Today, almost anyone can obtain a CDL by simply passing a written and driving test. Yet neither of these represent the true challenges that operators face on a daily basis.
Increased Regulations - In the Wrong Places
Over the past decade, the FMCSA has looked long and hard at the number of trucking accidents, implementing a number of new regulations in response. They are definitely working to reduce tractor trailer crashes, from restricted driver hours of service to requiring certain safety features on tractor trailers. Yet those who are actually driving, feel these regulations will not improve anything, and could actually make the situation worse.
Operators and many other industry professionals, including trucking accident lawyers, cite a lack of driver skill and experience as their chief concern, suggesting that accident rates would decrease if there were better drivers on the road. They point to the fact that crash numbers have increased as driver numbers have dwindled, suggesting that the push to hire any driver to combat the current shortage has put more inexperienced operators behind the wheel. It has also been argued as to how the many new regulations, including the 34-hour restart rule and anti-collision braking devices, could lead to an increase, rather than a decrease in crashes.
Overall, those who currently operate big rigs and see the effect of all the recent changes still ask for the same thing: increased training requirements to ensure better driver training and fewer trucking accidents. Instead, the FMCSA argues that research suggests there would be no gain with this requirement, and it would cost the industry money without providing enough results.
Until some kind of common ground is met on this, operator training and education will remain up to the individual and the hiring company. In the meantime, trucking accident lawyers and safety advocates can only encourage commercial carrier companies to refrain from hiring unskilled drivers, and to provide adequate training to new hires. With enough effort being placed on ensuring that only trained drivers make it to the highways, the idea that training does make a difference will become more obvious!
Hildebrand & Wilson, Attorneys at Law
7930 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581