Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

Causes of Truck Drivers Errors

Different Types of Trucks, Different Hazards

They range from smaller vehicles to the larger 18-wheelers that can have tandem trailers and reach tens of thousands of pounds. The larger the truck and the heavier the load, the dangerous the truck becomes. They have been described as instruments of death. The economy requires trucks to transport goods across the nation’s highways to keep commerce alive. They are a necessary evil of everyday modern society. While the majority of truck drivers and motor carriers attempt to follow the rules, those drivers and companies that disobey the FMCSR wreak havoc on people’s lives. The common person recognizes that trucks are dangerous. Avoiding the trucks as they make their way in caravans down highways is something that is not well understood. Sheer fear of a large truck does not help the operator of a passenger car know how to deal with the sometimes sudden movements of these massive vehicles. A growing economy means more trucks on the road. In the last two decades truck driver accidents have increased by over 20%. In North America alone, there are almost 500,000 truck accidents in a year and 5000 of these accidents prove to be deadly. In 2002, reports in the United States established that many people were injured in accidents involving trucks. Almost 5000 accidents caused death to a passenger car or other smaller vehicle driver. It is predicted that that by 2025, the total cost of motor vehicle accidents in the US will approximately reach a level as high as $450 billion dollars. Many of these accidents result in catastrophic injuries including amputation, head injuries, coma, and paralysis, with some resulting in death. With rising numbers of trucks and accidents it is wise to analyze the causes of these accidents in order to learn how to prevent accidents. This is a principle of loss prevention and risk analysis. By studying the past accidents and identifying the root cause of the preventable accident, safety plans can be devised and implemented to prevent and lessen further accidents occurring from known causes. The cause of truck accident cases is a perplexing study that requires evaluation of a number of criteria and variables. Those will be discussed below. The first issue to focus on is the qualification of the driver. Part 391.11 from the FMCSR requires that all drivers be properly qualified before operating a truck or tractor-trailer. Part 391.23 requires investigations and background check of the driver includes performing background checks which obtain a three year driving history with actual responses from the past employers. Many trucking companies simply ask for a copy of the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and then run a quick check. The driver starts driving without a road test and the unqualified driver begins on their merry way down the highway. The FMCSA has addressed the fact that having a CDL does not make the driver of truck qualified. Companies will have the driver sign a certification sheet that they are familiar with the FMCSR Safety Handbook and believe they have complied with the law. They have not. It requires much more than looking at the CDL and signing a sheet of paper stating they have read and are familiar with the FMCSR. This concept is ludicrous. The FMCSR Safety Handbook is an extremely regulatory based on the Code of Federal Regulations. It is written by lawyers and legislators. Many truck drivers cannot answer basic questions asked about the book’s regulatory requirements and will admit they have never read it. More importantly, many will admit they do not understand the requirements of the book. This is why they have management editions of the Safety Regulations in order to have Safety Directors learn the regulations and then implement a safety protocol to teach the meaning of each regulation in a meaningful manner that can be understood and comprehended by the average truck driver. In many cases the truck driver or motor carrier or both are to blame for the accidents. In some, the fault lies with the passenger car, but for the most part, the truck driver is to blame. Many truck drivers are concerned with loss of income, reprimands and potential termination for late deliveries so they are taught to be quiet about problems. They all know a fellow driver who took the time to complain about a safety issue and then immediately was fired. Some of the larger trucking companies know the rules, they teach in classroom settings. They test for comprehension. Those safer companies will track hours of their drivers. When a driver is short of hours, he is not dispatched for a load that will violate the maximum hours rules. Unfortunately, safely operated trucking companies are few and far between. In a safe company, the truck driver is allowed to report a safety problem with fear of being fired or reprimanded. The truck driver in a safe company learns the rules, follows the procedures and plays the game according to the book.

Reasons Why Driving Errors Occur

Most truck drivers comprehend the dangers they confront on the roadway and take safeguards to drive safely and according to the rules prescribed by the FMCSA. Notwithstanding, there will always be a truck driver will not operate safely. A safe driver will first read the FMCSR Safety handbook. Once the driver reads that book, the driver will immediately know that more learning is necessary. A safe company will take the driver on a road test and certify that the driver has the skills necessary to operate a semi. The truck driver who does not go to a truck driving school can be a menace to society. Many of them believe that simply passing a CDL makes them competent to operate over the road. It does not. A simple principle of education can be used to help provide a safe driver. Teach, test, test again and then teach at regular intervals with testing to see if the driver and student has learned what is being taught. The Smith System is a defensive driving manual for motor carriers. J.J. Keller writes manuals for teaching and produces videotape classroom training for each and every specific item of safety training that is necessary. The good truck driver is taught to anticipate and perceive hazards before they arise and concurrently with their rapid appearance on a road. Motor carriers design compensation systems like being paid by the mile. This, in turn, means that the more a truck driver drives per day, the more compensation he is paid. This is one off the most dangerous systems created for driver and motor carrier safety. This type of system is the antithesis of creation of a safety minded programs. Pay by the mile leads to driving over hours and maintenance of two sets of log books. One to show real time and the other to show a fake time in compliance with the FMCSR. Another profit driven system is the delivery “on-time” requirement. Years ago, Domino’s Pizza was sued for the promise of delivery of pizza in 30 minutes or its free. Their drivers rushed to deliver pizza. The obvious occurred, rapid delivery led to rapid accidents and unsafely conditions. This same system in motor carriers leads to accidents, crashes, severe injuries and deaths. All motor carriers should implement systems of safety that allows the driver a grace period on delivery when they have short hours remaining on their hours per day and week.

© Bradley A. Pistotnik, 2014