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Causes of Truck Driver Error
There are many different types of trucks. 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, paralysis, with some resulting in death. With rising numbers of trucks and accidents it is wise to analyze the 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, Dominos 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.
A leading cause of truck accidents is truck use of stimulants and other drugs to fight fatigue. In order to drive longer hours with short periods of sleep, the bad truck driver will turn to stimulants like methamphetamine, ice, crystal, speed, dexedrine, Ritalin, Adderall and a host of other stimulants. These drugs can be readily purchased at drug stops where tired drivers are known to frequent. Some drivers may turn to cocaine and crack. Regardless of the drug or type of stimulant, they do not provide for a safe truck driver in need of sleep and rest. All of these drugs have a mind altering effect on the human body. They cause hallucinations, breaks in thought patterns as well as many other side effects that create an unusually dangerous system for the truck driver. The driver may feel confident that he/she can drive another 500 miles, when, in reality, the truck driver should be pulling off in their sleeper or to a motel to get a decent rest. Some drivers may choose to seek Cannabis, commonly known as pot, weed, ganga, and other street names.
Different varieties of marijuana have different effects on the driver. Drives seeking marijuana will look for the type of pot that gives them a talkative speedy feeling in contrast to the marijuana that makes a person slow down. The driver Marijuana, also known as weed, smoke, cannabis or grass will make one feel very relaxed and laid back. Instant intake impairs concentration which causes the person to be unable to perform complex tasks due to extreme sudden fatigue. The long-term effects of using marijuana include paranoia and heart problems additionally can give rise to breathing and respiratory problems which has a coincidental relationship to sleep and fatigue. One study in 1999 found that marijuana was present in 4% of accidents. That figure rose to 12% in 2010. Ecstasy or MDMA comes in a pill form. When taken the driver may have a feeling of super levels of energy. The mind altering effects of this type of stimulant will wreak havoc on the truck driver’s ability to concentrate. It can and will lead to foreseeable accidents and catastrophe. Prescription medications may be as bad as street drugs. Truck drivers that have back pain from long periods of sitting may end up taking Lortab, Percocet, Narco, and other similar pain medications.
These prescriptions are easy to get. With more and more prescriptions of pain medications occurring across the country by liberal doctors known as script doctors, the truck driver may be able to obtain these legal drugs to drive. The problem is that most of these medication have warnings and adverse risk statements that indicate the patient should not drive on the medication. These types of medications will reduce a driver’s thought process and create a longer perception and reaction time to perceive and react to a hazard on the road.d Even 2-3 seconds may be enough difference to cause a truck driver to cause an accident. Prescription pain killers are known to be addictive. They become worsened by alcohol. They slow down the respiratory system and the truck driver becomes slower and slower ultimately resulting in the inability to be safe while driving a large tractor-trailer. Truck drivers should have regular screening for medical clearance if they have depression or anxiety disorders. These prescribed medications like Prozac, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Effexor, Pristiq, Cymbalta, Trazadone, Remeron, Lexapro, Celexa, Paxil and many others are all a form of anti-depressant medication that affects the serotonin and dompamine in the brain. These types of medications have an effect on certain brain chemicals. Neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, can be off and cause depression. The medications help to affect neurotransmitters. Each different medication affects the neurotransmitters in a different way. The medication helps with the depression caused by the imbalance of brain chemicals and neurotransmitters.
Each type of antidepressant affects these neurotransmitters in slightly different ways. The actual mechanism of reducing depression is generally unknown. These medications all have warnings to the patient to make sure that they do not have adverse effects before driving or operating heavy machinery. It is known that they will slow down the perception and reaction time of the driver. The consumption of them while operating hazardous instrumenetalities of death like 18 wheelers is questionable at best. Anti-anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax are no better. They have severe reductions on the respiratory and metabolic rates of the patient. In turn, they reduce the driver’s ability to perceive and react to hazards and dangers on the road. With anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications the risk that follows consumption of the prescribed medication is a risk of momentary pauses and sleep while driving. The driver may not know how tired they really are. Long hours combined with unsafe prescription medications lead to micro sleep moments where a driver dozes off for a second or two. He/she then snaps out of the period of zombie like consciousness and awake to find them in another lane of travel or even into head-on traffic.
The dangers of street and prescribed drugs is a known hazard. Truck driving companies are required to drug test the driver upon hire and many do so at random intervals during a year. The FMCSR requires both drug and alcohol tests immediately after an accident. Why? Because truck drivers using drugs and alcohol is know widely in the industry. The FMCSR was partially designed to look out for, detect and prevent addicted drivers from driving large trucks. Many states have now instituted statutes, laws and ordinances that make it an illegal event similar to driving while intoxicated (DWI) where a driver has driven on a prescription medication against the manufacturers warnings not to drive. At least twelve states have made it illegal to drive if a certain amount of a prescribed drug is found in a person’s blood,. Some of the states are Arizona, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Every year, more and more states are adding new laws to make driving while intoxicated on prescription drugs to be an illegal offense punishable with jail time and fines.
The FMCSA and most state governments are aware that driving on certain types of mind altering prescription drugs is known to impair driving skills, judgement, reaction time and perception time. Random monthly drug testing of large truck drivers on an unknown schedule through a simple urine test will eliminate most of the truck drivers who are likely to commit this type of offense. The truck driver can then be given an alternative of Some studies in the U.S. have identified driver intoxication rates as high as 40 percent of the drivers. Law officials and the FMCSA routinely perform preventability studies of individual crashes with large trucks and calculate the statistical level of intoxication. Motor carriers who do not have proper drug testing schedules and post accident drug and alcohol testing of drivers can be fined or lose operating authority under DOT audits.
Recognition and Regulation of Truck Drivers for Drugs and/or Alcohol
For whatever reason, the upward trend of truck drivers use of harmful prescribed and illegal Street drugs is on the rise. In past decades, the rate of truck driver use of drugs was less than today. Perhaps this is because of the number of increased pharmaceutical medications prescribed by doctors, combined with the illegal Street drugs that are modifying chemical compounds of prior drugs in order to reach a chemical structure that is a designer drug which may not be currently classified as an illegal drug under DEA illegally defined substances. Part 382.301 of the FMCSR discusses the concept of pre-employment testing. It requires a prior test to the first time a driver who performs safety-sensitive functions for an employer. It requires the driver shall undergo testing for controlled substances, as a condition prior to being used in the motor carrier’s operations unless certain exceptions apply.
The same regulation requires that no employer shall allow a driver to perform safety-sensitive functions unless the employer has received a controlled substance test result indicating a verified negative test for that driver. Part 382.303 FMCSR is on post-accident testing. This section requires the motor carrier to test the driver for alcohol as soon as practicable following an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle, operating on a public road in commerce. This requires the employer test for alcohol where a driver has received a citation within 8 hours of the occurrence. It also requires testing or there has been an accident of bodily injury where that person has had to receive medical treatment away from the scene of the accident. It requires testing where there is disabling damage as a result of a motor vehicle accident and one of the vehicles is transported away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle.
The same regulation requires that a motor carrier shall drug test the driver as soon as practicable following an an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle operated on a public road in commerce each for each surviving driver who performs safety-sensitive functions with respect to the vehicle if the accident involved loss of human life or if the driver has received a citation within 32 hours of the occurrence or accident under State or local law for a moving traffic violation violation arising from the accident where the error involved bodily injury to any person who receives medical treatment away from the scene of the accident or one or more of the motor vehicles in the accident had disabling damage as a result of the accident and was required to be transported away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle. These regulations are sometimes confusing to the employer of the driver or motor carrier. As a result of that confusion the FMCSA created a table to guide the employer in the necessary steps to test for drugs or alcohol.
The FMCSR has a table under 382.303 and be which is useful for determining whether testing is necessary. Motor carriers are able to review that table for a quick reference guide to determine when alcohol or drug testing is mandated by the FMCSR. Random drug and alcohol testing is controlled by Part 382.305 of the FMCSR. This regulatory requirement states that every employer shall comply with the requirements of this section and that every driver shall submit to random alcohol and controlled substance testing as required. The regulation recognizes that the FMCSR Administrator’s decision to increase or decrease the minimum minimum annual percentage rate for alcohol testing is based on the reported violation rate for the entire industry. All the information used for that determination is drawn from the information supplied by the entire industry pursuant to Part 382.403.
In order to ensure the reliability of the data, the FMCSR Administrator considers the quality and completeness of the reported data and is authorized to obtain additional information or reports from employers. The administrator is authorized to make appropriate modifications in calculating the total industry violation rate. Certain specific guidelines are given to the administrator to increase or decrease the annual percentage testing rate as necessary. The same regulation addresses testing for controlled substances based on the reported positive rate for the entire industry. That same information is drawn from the controlled substance management information system reports that are required by Part 382.403. The administrator is authorized to look to employers and other reported data from information systems in order to make appropriate increases and decreases of the testing requirements.
THE CAUSES OF INCREASED DRUG USE IN TRUCK DRIVERS
The yearly analysis by the FMCSA Administrator helps to determine the amount of random drug and alcohol testing that must be accomplished as a minimum standard in order for the motor carrier to retain appropriate licensure and authority to operated. The increasing economy and commerce create an upward direction for miles driven by truck drivers. As each additional mile is driven there is an assumed need for increased regulation to protect the motoring public. The upward trend may be likely to some or all of the following:
Studies have shown that the use of Marijuana prompts the use of other drugs. Pot has been called a gateway drug. With the recent legalization of marijuana for both health and consumer use, the availability is rising. Both Colorado and the state of Washington have marijuana for sale for health reasons or for recreation use. Truck drivers have access to both states since many truck drivers drive across all 48 contigiuous states. Cocaine use has been fairly steady. As the Mexican cartels increase in number, their distribution chains increase across the U.S. Ecstasy has led to chemically restructured modifications of MDMA into chemical structures that sometimes remain legal until their use become widespread and the DEA determines a new chemical compound to add tdo the list.
Social relaxation. As more and more people find marijuana and other street drugs to become acceptable their availability at truck stops becomes more widespread. With social relaxation, dealers have increased networks to assist in the delivery and distribution of each class of drug. Doctors have increased the prescription of pain killers in certain parts of the country. These clinics for painkillers move quickly from state to state. A recent crackdown in Florida provided evidence of the pandemic sale of prescription pain killers.
Demand of drugs has increased significantly. Increased demand leads to increased distribution networks making the truck stops a perfect place for nationwide access. While motor carriers drive millions of additional miles per year this pushes the truck drivers who work by the mile to driver more and more. In order to drive more miles while fatigued, stimulants help the driver work longer hours.
Drivers who turn to stimulants or other mind altering medication may mean well. Many of these street and prescription have an addictive quality to them. The drugs that are not as addictive may have a different mechanism of addiction propel the use by the drivers. For example, the driver uses stimulants creating a lack of sleep. The longer they use, the more tired they become. In turn, they increase the use of the drug to help them function while sleep deprived. Rehabilitation centers are expensive. Many drivers are self employed without insurance. Those drivers cannot take the time off nor do they have the funds to pay for the rehabilitation centers without either losing money to feed their family or losing their contracts with the main carriers they drive or. Larger carriers who provide health insurance do not set up the necessary pay systems that would allow the addicted driver to take off a month to go through rehab. Without systems in place that rewards drivers for recognizing and treating addiction, the recovery process will not commence. The drivers will continue to drive.
PROCEDURAL FLAWS IN THE MOTOR CARRIER HEALTH AND RECOVERY PLANS
Motor carriers do not want to have drivers take off time for recovery. Those carriers that set up self-funded ERISA plan do not write health insurance plans allowing for their employees to have sufficient paid time while a driver is in treatment. The plans for insurance are underfunded and lack quality health care benefits. The lower the benefits and higher the deductible, the less likely it is that a truck driver will use the available insurance to seek recovery. Motor carriers know that roadside inspections are infrequent. They understand that the appearance of alertness will likely prevent law enforcement from seeking a drug or alcohol test until it is too late, after the moment of the accident has occurred. The drug dealers are not cut off at the root. The drug users are caught but the drug dealers are becoming even harder to get to.
Some motor carries completely ignore the mandatory testing requirements and simply place drivers on the road without having adequate certification that the driver has been adequately and appropriately tested. These types of motor carriers often fail to follow the random testing protocols until an audit from the DOT and FMCSA occurs. The cost associated with random audits may be a reason for failure to adhere to the required compliance. Every dollar that is not spent creates the potential for an additional dollar of profits. Safety costs. Truck drivers and smaller motor carriers that care little for safety often choose to skip the necessary testing protocols in order to save a buck. If an audit does not occur, they may never be caught. Everyone is aware that the government funding to conduct roadside inspections is insufficient to adequately perform all inspections and audits that would create a safer national system. Unfortunately, self regulation occurs infrequently.
PROCEDURAL STEPS CAN BE TAKEN TO MINIMIZE INTOXICATED TRUCK DRIVERS FROM OPERATING IN INTERSTATE COMMERCE
Intoxication of truck drivers due to either alcohol or illegal drugs and prescribed medications is an ongoing difficult national crisis which is hard to repair in a rapid fashion. The first, and most obvious step, is to perform random drug and alcohol testing of all truck drivers at least one time per month on an unspecified alternating day of the week. Drivers who are addicted can easily predict the period of a normal random urine test. Those addicted drivers are able to control themselves for a period of time and to stop consumption of alcohol and/or drugs for brief periods just prior to the known period of testing. This random type of testing would have to be for all drivers in order for to have much true lasting effect. Presently, many companies simply randomly pick drivers. The entire fleet is not tested on a monthly basis. Testing the entire fleet on an unknown random date each month would allow for much greater safety. A second step that could be taken to help with the present system would be to provide education to the drivers of the dangers of intoxicated driving. Comprehensive testing would have to follow. This step would simply help to bring up driver awareness of the dangers and hazards of operating a commercial motor vehicle while in an intoxicated state.
Education, by itself, will not alleviate the problem. The more that the driver is educated with knowledge about how dangerous a commercial motor vehicle is, the more likely the driver will develop a keen understanding of why you cannot operate a large truck or tractor-trailer due to the sheer force of this destructive instrument. A third step that could be taken, would be to compensate drivers for passing random drug and alcohol tests over a certain period of time where a compensation system of bonuses is provided. This type of compensation system, much like Pavlovian training, would be useful for a large group of non-addictive personality types. It would still not prevent those drivers who are highly addicted to alcohol and/or illegal substances from continuing to driver across the nation. A fourth type of system could be put into place, which would be a procedural monitoring system where the motor carrier would implement software systems. This system would have access to the drivers’ medical files and prescription history. The likelihood of this passing scrutiny through HIPPA laws and/or constitutional muster under the Fourth Amendment would likely fail. This type of invasion of privacy would likely lead to a an intense and rapid drop of available truck drivers. Indeed, it might eliminate many of the truck drivers across the nation.
The correct answer to fix the system would be to set up a combination procedural system that educates and tests the drivers. The same system would compensate and bonus. Those drivers who are in compliance with the rules of the FMCSR. Those same drivers who are in compliance could be given fair compensation increases for their safety awareness. Those drivers who are noncompliant can be reprimanded, treated in addiction facilities and/or terminated. The industry has a standard of care which is a called the Rule of 3. This is the 3 strike rule and you are out. This relates to giving a driver 3 chances before final termination. Strict adherence to the Rule of 3 would provide a system of increased compliance. Drivers who cannot fall in line with the ability to drive while alert and in an un-intoxicated manner should be dealt with similar to the DUI laws in most states, which provide punishment ranging from jail time to suspension of a driver’s license. The truck driver who continues to operate in an intoxicated state should not be given the privilege of a CDL. A national system of computer recognition could easily flag those drivers so that other motor carriers do not hire them. A driver who then completes an adequate period of sobriety followed by a certain period of time with adequate random testing could be put back into service after that driver has established and proven that they no longer are addicted.
FATIGUED TRUCK DRIVERS
One of the leading causes of truck accidents is fatigue. Once drivers too tired to drive danger rapidly approaches. The federal government recently studied the the hours-of-service rules under the Efficacy-of-HOS-Restart-Rule-Report. The link to that report is found at http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/51000/51400/51417/Efficacy-of-HOS-Restart-Rule-Report.pdf. This study which was conducted by the Washington State University Sleep and Performance Research Center for the FMCSR helped evaluate the fatigue of drivers with different levels of nighttime periods for breaks. The study was partially reviewing night time drivers and their restart brake. The restart break generally leads to the conclusion that adding additional nighttime sleep for nighttime drivers with additional breaks would lead to a more safe environment. The restart is a new cycle for the driver who has been off-duty for 34 hours or more. The change in regulations made a change for nighttime drivers which required them to have at least 2 night periods which were defined as from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM during each restart period in order to allow for enough sleep.
The effect of these regulations is that drivers who finish and on-duty cycle of work which ends between 1:00 AM and 7:00 PM must extend their 34-our restart break by one or more hours in order to comply with the new rule. Generally, this will help drivers to have less fatigue while driving. It will additionally help with having fewer attention span issues. The Government study utilized volunteers who were randomized into a best case condition which generally means that they would have daytime wakefulness and nighttime sleep. They compared this to a worst-case condition where nighttime wakefulness was compared to daytime sleep. The study consisted of 100 men and 6 women who were between the age of 24 and 69 years of age. The commercial driving experience of the collective study group range from less than one year to more than 39 years with an average or mead of 12.4 years of driving experience. Drivers fatigue levels were measured 3 times per day by means of a Psychomotor Vigilance Test commonly called the PVT. They then studied the subjective sleepiness scores as well as lane deviation in duty cycle’s. The final results indicated that a driver having at least 2 night time periods from 1:00 AM until 5:00 AM in the restart brake will help to mitigate and reduce fatigue.
These Government studies lead to a simple conclusion that nighttime drivers are hazardous and dangerous. Giving additional rest periods with days off to compensate for the missed rest will help alleviate the hazards of the truck driver on the open roads. Many accidents occur during the night time hours when all motorists are tired. Even professional truck drivers become tired and fatigued. The change of their normal sleeping patterns can lead to disastrous effects on other drivers. As nighttime comes on, the chances for accidents increase substantially. Changes in alertness create a decreased reaction and perception time. If motor carriers give the driver’s sufficient breaks to obtain sleep and rest while simultaneously pain them for their off-duty time, accidents will foreseeably be decreased. Some motor carriers changed and alternate the schedules of their drivers which causes them to be unable to have a routine of a certain sleep pattern. This alternation of circadian rhythms leads to extremely fatigued drivers who become dangerous and hazardous to all other motorists. The problem with fatigue is that it can get to the best of drivers; even the most experienced drivers can become a victim to fatigue. Reports suggest that almost 30% of fatal accidents and 15% of injuries are because of fatigue.
Fatigue can be studied. The effects of fatigue can be known and preventative measures can be taken to eliminate factors that cause drivers to operate on limited periods of rest or sleep. The government was smart enough to determine that additional rules of safety need to be added for nighttime drivers because of the known dangers of driving at night. Micro sleep is something that occurs when people are extremely tired; it is a very short episode of sleep. It may be only a a few seconds. Initially one’s eyes start drooping and then they close entirely. Drivers may experience micro sleep if they are indulging in a monotonous task like driving on rural highways with limited periods of barren highways where there are no other obvious drivers, motorists or truck drivers. Micro sleep can prove to be extremely dangerous in all tasks, which require ones constant attention, such as driving. Micro sleep is a certain recipe for death. A few seconds of snoozing may end up with an accident that was unintended. The motorist driving the smaller car is the most likely person to be injured or killed. When truck drivers have micro sleep periods they tend to shift across lanes and can head into oncoming traffic or vehicles adjacent to them.
As they awaken they try to overcorrect, which may cause them to drive off of the road or into vehicles to their immediate right or left. Some drivers may go into periods of micro sleep where they drive for a few seconds while asleep and then wake back up. Once the driver starts into a micro sleep, danger lurks. Many drivers do not realize they are in periods of micro sleep. Those drivers continue to drive while fatigued and end up costing the lives of countless others. Fatigue has been the cause of many major disasters, like the plane crash in 2009 where more than 200 people were flying from Brazil to France when their route took an unexpected turn and they ended up in the Atlantic Ocean. When the pilot was confronted he said that he only had an hour of sleep at night. Truck drivers, like train operators and airline pilots all require a certain period of rest and sleep so that they do not become fatigued, have episodes of micro sleep and momentary lapses of control of the dangerous instruments that they operate. Airlines require pilots not to consume alcohol before operation of the jet. They require them to get sufficient sleep. Motor carriers are no different. They are required by the FMCSR to have drivers who drive rested and sober. Compliance is the problem. While the FAA highly regulates airline pilots, the FMCSA attempts to regulate the truck drivers and motor carriers. The significant difference between the two is that there are many more truck drivers than airline pilots. Compliance monitoring is much more difficult with the number of truck drivers and motor carries simply due to the shear enormous size of the industry.
CAUSES OF SLEEP FATIGUE
For most drivers it simply means getting less rest than you require. Not getting enough rest before your first movement or between on-duty and off duty time will increase fatigue and exhaustion. Lack of sleep over multiple days in a row with insufficient sleep and rest periods. As a truck driver you have an obligation to get sleep. The more days that are driven in a row without adequate rest and sleep the more fatigued the driver becomes. This is why the FMCSR look at periods of hours and days to get adequate rest and sleep, requiring that a driver not drive more than a particular number of hours per day or week. Night time driving with limited rest breaks and sleep periods. Many drivers will drive in split shifts. Attempting to get 4 hours of sleep in contrast to a full rest period of 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Sleep patterns of only 4 hours create dangerous and fatigued truck drivers. Taking days off. Drivers need to have set patterns of days on and off of duty. When drivers continuously drive over the nation’s highways, while only using split shift sleep patterns or limited periods of rest, the obvious occurs. Accidents are not only foreseeable because of the sleep patterns, but become anticipated or presumed.
Long driving hours. When drivers fail to turn off at the required off duty period of time for the day or week and continue to driver they become exhausted and accidents become more frequent. Night time driving. Driving during the evening where drivers sleep during the day and drive at night places most drivers at increased risk for sleep deprivation, exhaustion and accidents. Irregular hours and early start times. Drivers may be required to regularly have shifts that start in the early morning hours as early as 3-4 a.m. while other drivers are placed into switching between driving at daytime for a few days and then switching to night time driving. This causes irregular circadian rhythm patterns for the drivers. They are never able to get sufficient sleep or rest and drive fatigued on a 24 hour a day basis. Motor carriers requiring shift changes at different periods of the day create dangerous fatigued drivers. On time deadline dispatch. Motor carriers who are more concerned with on time delivery than driver fatigue push their drivers to over capacity. These drivers are forced to drive while fatigued or face the loss of employment. Insufficient rest and sleep time.
Drivers not only needs sleep, they need time off with days of time off in a row like normal people who rest over a weekend. Those drivers forced to drive almost every day are forced to become fatigued and lead to crashes, injuries and death on the highways. True off-duty time. Many drivers do log themselves as off duty even though they are loading, unloading, or just assisting loading and securement activities. They do this to show they are not over hours. This is fraudulent log reporting and leads to many injuries and accidents. Hazardous driving conditions. Part 392.14 of the FMCSR requires that a driver or operator of a commercial motor vehicle use extreme caution in the operation of the commercial vehicle when hazardous conditions exist, such as snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, smoke, or other factors adversely affect visibility or traction. This regulation requires that the driver of the commercial motor vehicle reduce speed when such conditions exist. Where the conditions are sufficiently dangerous the driver is required to completely discontinue the driving and operation of the commercial motor vehicle until it is safe and the hazard has dissipated.
TIME OF DAY FACTORS
Driving in early morning hours. Truck drivers who begin their workday at 3 or 4 in the morning, in contrast to commencement of driving at 6 or 7 in the morning are driving at a more dangerous period of time. Likewise, drivers who begin driving late at night at 1:00 AM, or at any time after 1:00 AM through 5 AM in the morning are driving at an extremely dangerous period of time. An old phrase comes to mind. Nothing good happens after the witching hour or midnight. Motorists who travel across country at night have more wrecks. This is for truck drivers as well as operators of passenger cars and smaller passenger vehicles and trucks. Body clock periods of driving. The human body is meant to work on a 24-hour cycle utilizing the dawn and sun in the morning for the beginning of a work day with dusk and darkness at nighttime bringing on the period for sleep or rest.
Even slight modification of these built-in human body clock internal circadian rhythms leads to extreme exhaustion and fatigue. A normal driver will become more tired after noon, or 12:00 PM as the body begins to change energy levels and hormones become released at varying times during the day. Drivers who eat heavy lunches or consume alcohol at lunch, obviously become tired and more hazardous than drivers who eat light normal lunches consuming nonalcoholic beverages. Rest periods for partial sleep needs. When drivers attempt to nap for limited periods on roadside shoulders or truck stops their meager attempt at getting 30 minutes of rest does not offset the fatigue and exhaustion that their body knows and feels is present. These drivers are often likely to turn to stimulants or drugs to continue to push their bodies beyond human limits.
unfit and overweight. Drivers lead to many problems on the roads. Drivers who do not regularly at exercise, and make poor choices in food eating heavy and greasy truck stop food contribute to poor health and an accompanying lack of alertness. Emotional issues. Drivers are subject to having anxiety and depression just like anyone else in society. These drivers may take medication such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications which causes an effect on cognition and alertness. These drivers are much more dangerous than drivers who do not take medications that are known to cause sleepiness. Sleep issues such as apnea. Many drivers do not recognize that their sleep and fatigue problems come from snoring. The unfit driver who has a heavier throat and body morphs may have a thicker throat from increased obesity and lack of exercise. This may cause the throat close the throat during sleep activity. When sleep apnea occurs, the driver is not getting appropriate oxygenation and suffers from being tired during waking hours.
This particular type of driver can be tested in the sleep lab and then outfitted with a portable C-PAP device or other mouth guard device which helps prevent sleep apnea.. Some individuals experience the ill effects of slumber issue, for example, rest apnea. Other medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and other late onset diseases affect the driver to such an extent that it creates a hazardous driving condition. Many of these drivers go to health clinics who specialize in quick medical exams for the DOT. If the driver is not truthful with the doctor about symptoms that the patient is having and you combine this with a doctor who is attempting to find a person to be fit for medical purposes under the DOT, the combination of the two leads to dangerous events. Many drivers need to be found fit to drive in order to keep their CDL and be able to feed their family. This simple fact can lead a truck driver to refrain from being truthful about actual symptoms and disease processes when being evaluated by the DOT doctor.
TEXTING AND DRIVING
Texting and driving is causing a shocking number of accidents and deaths. Distracted driving is a common occurrence for truck drivers as well as motorist driving passenger cars. Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. There are many different forms of distraction. Those forms of distraction can include texting, using a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reading maps on a telephone or cellular device, using navigation systems that are on board in the dashboard, viewing onboard electronic devices and many other devices, both internally and externally hand-held, are creating an ever increasing number of accidents. In 2011 their were an estimated 387,000 people that were involved in motor vehicle crashes due to distracted driving. In 2012, that number rose to approximate 421,000 people in motor vehicle crashes that involved a distracted driver. Texting has become so prevalent that according to the CTIA, 171.3 billion texts were sent in the U.S. when you include the U.S. territories, Guam and other territories related to the U.S. Truck drivers text.
Many receive dispatch instructions on their cell phones or other electronic satellite devices that momentarily and randomly pop up giving them instructions on where to pick up a load. These same devices tell them when they have to deliver the load and give warnings for late delivery. Every time a truck driver looks away from the road there is an increased chance that an accident will occur. According to the NHTSA drivers in their 20s make up approximately 27% of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes. According to NOPUS, during daylight hours there are approximately 660,000 drivers using cellphones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. These figures are staggering. The average time a person’s eyes are off the road is 5 seconds while texting. When they are traveling at 55 miles-per-hour, this five second period is enough time to cover the length of a football field while blind folded. (2009, VTTI) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledged in 2013, that distracted driving of all kinds, including the use of hand-held cell phones is a growing hazard. The same agency did a study that indicated that at least 100,000 drivers are texting at any given daylight moment while more than 600,000 drivers are using hand-held phones at any given moment of the day while operating a car, truck or commercial motor vehicle.
These statistics are not only staggering, they are understudied. Many trial lawyers know that accidents caused by drunk drivers are actually less than the amount caused by driver’s to take their eyes off of the road long enough to dial a phone number on a cellular device or take the time to text a friend or family member or respond to a text. Drunk driving and texting are equally dangerous. A study that was conducted by David Swedler at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health entitled Epidemiology of Distracted Driving and Research into Distracted Driving among Truck Drivers concluded that 69% of American drivers talk on the phone and 31% text while driving. The same study relied on Olson et al. (2009) concluded the truck drivers spend up to 60% of their driving time on some tertiary activity with 12% of their time being on some phone-related task. The study also found that motor vehicle-related incidents are the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the United States causing over 2000 deaths per year. The study period was between 2003 and 2009. They found that commercial drivers suffer 3.7 fatalities per billion vehicle miles traveled, quoting Lyman and Braver (2003). They also found that trucking and trucking courier services have the highest cost of occupational injuries and illnesses in the United States following the study by Bradley et al. (2004). The authors noted a study from Olson et al. FMCSA report No. 09-042 which evaluated the odds ratios for safety critical events for commercial truck drivers.
The ratios were fairly high showing text messages at a critically high level of 23.24. Riding on a pad or notebook were found to be at the level of 8.98. Looking at a map was at the level of 7.02. Dialing on a cell phone was at the level of 5.93. Reaching for electronic devices was at a level 6.72. Talking on a hands free cellular device indicated a much lower critical event level of only 0.44. Of the same study noted that by 2010 23 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving while 6 states and the District of Columbia had banned hand-held phone use while driving. This same author noted that into thousand 9 present a bomb a prohibited federal employees from testing while driving. In January 2010. The FMCSR banned commercial drivers from testing and driving. FMCSA -2009-0370. In December of 2011 the NTSB recommended a nationwide ban on all CWPD for all drivers. The results of this particular study found that the truck drivers killed in distracted driving crashes amounted to 1007 deaths during the study period. The fatality rate was 0.321 per billion vehicle miles traveled (BVMT). For all vehicle occupants killed and crashes involving distracted driving for truck drivers, the rate was much high higher, at the rate of 3,942 deaths. This resulted in a fatality rate of 1.101 per billion vehicle miles traveled (BVMT).
The same author concluded that the 2010 FMCSA rule banning testing while driving for truck drivers was associated with the 41 to 47% decrease in fatalities to all vehicle occupants and crashes involving distracted truck drivers. Regardless of the FMCSA ban, truck driver related crashes from distracted driving while texting remain a serious problem for all motorists on US highways. Any interested person can go to Google or some of the other search vehicles on line and find a rapidly growing number of the distracted driving statistics from various governmental and private studies. Many of you probably seen the billboards across the nation’s highways talking about texting while driving and the dangers associated with them. This public information movement will hopefully lead to less text related accidents.
It is suggested that truck drivers should be required to stop before looking at texts. An on-board device could be developed and installed in the tractor of tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles and large trucks that would stop a signal from being received until the truck is in park. A simple device like this could be created and placed on a mandatory basis into each and every large truck in the United States. Many injuries and deaths would be prevented on a permanent basis. While the costs associated with placement of this device might seem prohibitive to the trucking industry, a cost-benefit analysis would lead to the conclusion that the cost of lives outweighs the requirement that all trucking companies install devices to prohibit communication or texting until the vehicle is in park or stopped.
In 2011 reports have shown that almost 23% of accidents involved texting. As stated above the average text takes five seconds of the driver’s time and causes distraction. The State of Virginia found that texting and being distracted increases the chances of getting into an accident by 23 times the normal rate. In another public study, 11% of drivers who survived a crash admitted to getting or sending a text immediately preceding the moment of the accident. For the most part, drivers and people who text while driving are knowingly and recklessly causing accidents. These people apparently have no concern for human life. These truck drivers realize how heavy and dangerous their tractor-trailers are. They are taught by the trucking industry that the heavier the vehicle is, the more massive it becomes. In turn, the mass and force of the truck becomes more dangerous. Taking 5 seconds of time from a proper view of the highway and the surrounding pedestrians, motorcycles, cars, vehicles, and other trucks is more than ample time to lead to an instant emergency and accident. Even so-called hands free driving requires a momentary distraction from the operator of the vehicle or driver of the truck. Many cars and vehicles are now installed with dashboard devices that allow a person to take their finger and dial a number on the dashboard of their vehicle.
This period of dialing is likely several seconds. This period of several seconds of distraction will almost always lead to hundreds of feet of travel. It only takes a moment of distraction to lead to an accident. Safety should be the foremost thought in all drivers’ minds. Motor carriers must teach truck drivers not to look at devices, which distracted them from the highways in any manner. Remember that it is not the actual texting that causes the accidents. It is the momentary lapse of view of the traveled highway and surrounding vehicles and persons that leads to an accident. All states in the United States have laws that require a driver to keep a proper lookout for other objects, vehicles and motorists in their vicinity and view. These laws were created for a specific reason. That reason is to make sure that all drivers maintain a visual inspection of the traveled highway to perceive hazards and then to react to those hazards prior to the time and moment in which a collision will occur.
Truck drivers are trained professional professionals, much like pilots of airplanes,that must have a keener observation of the surrounding roadways and motorists because of the massive size of their trucks. A truck driver who is distracted by texting is not unlike the engineer operating a train. Many will recall the rather severe train accident that occurred in the eastern part of the United States in 2013. Many will recall the December 2013 railroad accident where the engineer of a large train fell asleep due to fatigue with the Metro-North Railroad in the Bronx. The train was going 82 m.p.h. right before the crash and was heading into a precarious curve when the train should have been slowing to 30 m.p.h. The train jumped the tracks and derailed with several railroad cars pouring into the Harlem river. Four persons were killed and more than sixty were injured. This accident could have been prevented by making mandatory rules in place to require the the engineer to get adequate sleep and rest. Trains and large tractor-trailers are similar in their capacity for death and destruction. All large instrumentalities can cause immense pain, anguish and grief through catastrophe. We see these events occur over and over. They all occur due to a lack of safety protocols or a lack of appropriate monitoring and supervision of the drivers to make sure they follow the safety protocols.
Causes of Texting While Simultaneously Driving
There are many causes and reasons for why people text and drive simultaneously. The first and foremost reason is the lack of education of the Gen. motoring public, including truck drivers. People who drive don’t really believe that a momentary lapse of 5 seconds while taxing will lead to an accident. These drivers are uneducated with the actual statistical knowledge that they need. Truck drivers who are driving. Larger instruments of death and destruction need more education than the common operator of a passenger car.
A GENERAL LACK OF AWARENESS
lack of public awareness is the primary reason why people text and drive. While there is a growing trend of younger teenage drivers testing and driving, as noted above, truck drivers are known to have to respond to electronic messages in order to keep their job. Public advertising on billboards and television about not testing and driving is an increasing public awareness campaign that should be increased. Public advertising is not yet prolific enough to target the truck driver population. Thus, motor carriers need to implement monthly safety meetings about the dangers associated with testing and driving large trucks. Motor carriers need to punish there. Truck drivers who violate rules that they promulgate. Simple creation of a policy that you not text while driving means absolutely nothing unless the motor carrier creates a system of supervision and monitoring to implement compliance with the protocol. A better solution is simply too create a computerized device that prevents the truck driver from receiving or sending a message on an electronic cell phone or other cellular and and/or electronic device while the vehicle is in movement.
Along with the invention of texting, a new trend has occurred. Many drivers and people now tend to avoid conversations and text their thoughts instead. This trend of texting creates 5 seconds lapses in viewing roads and surrounding which in turn, leads to accidents. Drivers and all motors carriers need to understand that they must stop their vehicles before texting. Motor carriers need to understand that allowing the devices to be carried within the truck creates a known distraction for their drivers. In many cases, texting is free or costs less than talking on the phone. Drivers tend to utilize the texting device in order to avoid spending money on cellular phones. This is a known trend. Since it is a known trend, rules must be set in place to stop and prevent texting from occurring while the tractor-trailer is operating the vehicle on a traveled highway. Communication trends have changed. People prefer to keep conversations short and informal. With this change, they text more and talk less.
Truck drivers who have been traveling on a road for long-distance become overconfident in their ability to handle the tractor-trailer in rapid emergencies and hazards. This leads to a careless attitude. Long distances create bored drivers. Bored drivers tend to find things to occupy them like texting or viewing cellular and satellite devices, which, in turn, leads to truck drivers driving while distracted. Many truck drivers become overconfident due to the long distances traveled and believe that their ability is higher than it is. The reason that road tests are done on truck drivers and the reason that they should be retested on a yearly basis is to make sure that they remember the rules of the road. The FAA and insurance carriers require pilots to be certified on the planes they fly on an annual basis. There is no reason that the DOT and FMCSA should not design similar training, testing and certification protocols in place for truck drivers. Careless attitudes can be corrected by appropriate education and training to make the truck driver understand the dangers and hazards of texting while driving.
Truck drivers must have consequences which means reprimands, retraining, and ultimate termination if they fail to follow the rules. The Rule of 3 means 3 strikes and you are out. No trucking company or motor carrier should allow a truck driver to have 3 strikes with accidents due to texting or talking on a cellular or electronic device. If they have one accident from texting, the driver should be suspended and retrained. If a motor carrier has a proper disciplinary program in place that follows the Rule of 3, they will have a much higher likelihood of having their drivers actually comply with the safety protocols. Truck companies must implement harsh penalties for truck drivers to ensure compliance. The ultimate consequences of trucking companies allowing truck drivers to text and drive is the loss of human life. This consequence is much to severe. An innocent motorist should never have to lose their life because a truck driver takes 5 seconds to text.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
The federal and state governments have already done a considerable amount to bring up driver awareness about the dangers of texting to a reality. Many celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and other actors and singers have lent their voice and fame to help in the cause. Consumer groups create websites to bring up awareness. Lawyers write blogs about the dangers of texting while driving. Reporters report on a daily basis about people dying on the nation’s highways as a result of driver texting. None of this is enough. Motor carriers have to be ultimately responsible for controlling their drivers. Motor carriers must implement the safety systems discussed in the preceding sections of this writing. Regardless of cost, motor carriers should implement safety devices that stop and prevent truck drivers from texting by causing a lack of cellular operation to work while the truck and tractor-trailer are in movement. A truck driver can take a momentary stop on a truck stop, rest area or shoulder of the road to check for instructions and make appropriate phone calls and texts. The FMCSA needs to implement stronger safety protocols requiring trucking companies to install devices that prevent driver texting. Lobbyists for the trucking companies do their best with legislators, Senators and Congressman to prevent these laws from being introduced.
At some point, logic should outweigh money from lobbyists and trucking companies. Safety systems to protect the nation and motoring public must be implemented. Regulations must be increased and made stricter. Motor carriers must be brought into compliance through increased audits and roadside inspections. Only then, will the number of injuries and deaths due to texting and driving be decreased. In Germany, there are stringent laws that mobile phones cannot be used as long as the engine is running; this is a great step forward! The same types of laws have been implemented in the Netherlands. The United Kingdom has implemented a similar ban making exceptions for emergency calls. The United Arab Emirates follows such a law very strictly. In one instance a United Arab Emirates minister was fined for using his mobile phone while driving. The U.S. muist take similar steps to help with public safety. The European nations and market and several other countries are recognizing the need for making driving while texting illegal. The U.S. Federal government must make a mandatory law that protects drivers in all states and not just a few. The operators of trucks and passenger cars can help with the safety related to tex August ting while driving by simply turning their phones off while driving and/or putting the phones on a silent device and self policing himself from education. The more that the drivers are educated and on B’s ship, the safer the roadways will be.
TALKING ON CELL PHONES WHILE DRIVING
Testing on cell phones is just one of the many dangers associated with cellular devices. Talking on a cell phone can be just as deadly. The time it takes to dial a number manually can be enough time for a momentary lapse in a view of the road. Looking down at a cell phone to see who is calling takes several seconds. Answering the phone may take a second or two. Every second counts. Talking on cellular phones diverts the driver’s attention from the roadway. Hands free technology has greatly improved the dangers associated with driving and talking on the phone. Regardless, many people still tend to use their phone manually and/or dial the phone number on the dashboard. If the phone is installed into the dashboard device, the driver looks to the dashboard instead of the roadway. When this occurs, momentary lapses in judgment occur. An accident only takes a few seconds to happen. One of the primary rules of the road is that a person must be aware of hazards in order to pursue perceive them and react to them. Hands free devices allowing motorists to keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road have become more predominant in availability and usage. Years ago, very few people had cell phones and only the wealthiest of individuals could afford to have a mobile phone in their car. With the development of technology, the cost of cell phones has dropped substantially. Along with the decrease in cost of cellular phones and service comes an increase in the use of cellular phones.
Driving along any highway in the U.S., it is not at all abnormal to see a driver of a car or a truck driver talking on a telephone and diverting their attention from the traveled roadway. When this occurs, regardless of whether it is of driver of a car or truck, danger lurks and is ever present. A study at Carnegie Mellon University has shown that the use of hands free cellular devices does not help reduce the risk of accidents with much decrease in distracted driving, if any. Reports and studies have indicated that just listening to a voice over a speaker, without holding the cellular device, can cause a 37% decrease in the activity in the persons parietal lobe section of their brain. The parietal lobe is linked to managing spatial layouts and tasks. Some studies have researched the idea of comparing conversations the driver has over the phone in relation to a conversation between a driver and passenger in a car where no phone is used. A study from Utah University established that a driver having a conversation on the phone while driving is four times more likely to cause an accident than a driver who is simply talking on the phone to a passenger. Perhaps the reason is that the the person on the phone becomes more concentrated on the phone discussion than the person driving and interacting with a passenger. Both, are obviously dangerous. Apparently, it is less dangerous to talk to your passenger than to talk on the cell phone. Speaking on the cell phone while driving is another growing trend. Not all states have enacted laws to prevent talking and driving.
Talking on a cellular phone is known to be dangerous when one is driving. The driver is causing a distraction from the roadway. This reduces the perception of hazards and obviously reduces the reaction time to avoid hazards. Some studies have indicated that talking on a cell phone is no safer than driving while intoxicated. Many studies have indicated that the driver’s perception and reaction time is reduced while talking on a cell phone summer similar to that of comparing studies of people who have one, two, or three drinks of alcohol and then chooses to start the ignition and drive. A study by by David L Strayer, et al. entitled A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver was conducted at the University of Utah at Salt Lake City, Utah. This study attempted to determine the relative impairment associated with conversing on a cellular telephone while driving. The purpose of the research was to provide a direct comparison of the driving performance of the cell phone driver and a drunk driver in a controlled laboratory’s testing setting. For the intoxicated drivers, they use the blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% weight/volume.
Surprisingly, the result found that when drivers were conversing on either a hand-held or hands-free cell phone, the braking reactions were delayed and they were involved in more traffic accidents than what when they were not conversing on a cell phone. They found that when drivers were intoxicated from ethanol exhibited a more aggressive driving style which was following closer to the vehicle immediately in front of them and then applied more force when braking. The ultimate conclusion of the study was that when driving conditions and time on task were controlled the impairments associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as those associated with driving while drunk. The study found that drivers using a cell phone exhibited a delay in the response to events in the driving scenario and were more likely to be involved in a traffic accident. It also found the drunk driver errors hit the brakes harder and had shorter following distance than the cell phone users. They found that the cell phone driver had slower reactions, had longer following distance, took longer to recover speed lost following a braking episode and were involved in more accidents. The conclusion was that in the case of the cell phone driver, the impairments appear to be attributable, in large part to the diversion of attention from the processing of information necessary for the safe operation of the motor vehicle.
They referred to two prior studies as reference for their conclusions, (Strayer, et al., 2003); (Strayer and Johnston, 2001). With a growing population of cell phones and increasing cellular activity. The opportunity for accidents is increasing at an alarming rate. As noted previously, it is probably more dangerous to dial a phone number or lookup someone’s phone number to call it and then dial than the act of talking itself. The problem is taking the momentary period in time, usually several seconds, to divert one’s eyes away from the traveled highway. A person who looks in the back seat of their car at a child who is screaming and continues to drive forward can obviously cause an accident. The person who looks away from the roadway and views their phone in their lap or some other position to determine what number to appropriately dial or see who is calling is negligent. This growing trend will continue to increase unless laws are made harsher to penalize and stop drivers from talking on cell phones which requires dialing on cell phones. All drivers, including truck drivers and passenger car drivers must learn to avoid talking on the cell phone while driving. The momentary lapse in attention can ultimately cause a rapid and dangerous effect on another innocent person who may be a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcycle rider, or other operator of a motor vehicle who is following the law and obeying the rules of the road.
Innocent people are killed on a daily basis from persons talking on cell phones while driving. What Can Be Done to Create a Decrease in Drivers Talking on Cell Phones? As the number of accidents have arisen the increasing penalties by state statutes and regulations increases on a yearly basis. It is clear that talking and driving can be easily avoided. There is no reason for anyone to do this. There is no reason for anyone to take the risk that is associated with the loss of attention span as it is compared to keeping your eyes on the road. The State of Alabama has prevented drivers from using cellphones while driving. They are not permitted to use them cell phones for taxing or making phone calls. Likewise, California has banned all drivers from using their mobile phones including truck drivers. California is a leader in banning or penalizing drivers from using cellphones while driving. California pays a high level of attention to younger drivers under the age of 18. While the Village vigilance of the younger drivers may help, the vigilance needs to be for all drivers from all passenger cars, trucks and tractor-trailers. The danger is the same with all. Several other countries incontinence have banned the use of phones while driving, including Brazil, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Italy and the United Kingdom, as well as many others.
Laws are changing annually. Other countries, which have banned the use of phones while driving, include Brazil, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Italy and United Kingdom. Changing recognition of the dangers associated with cell phones is becoming more prevalent with the times. This shows how many have come to terms with the fact that using phones while driving is so dangerous but some are still yet to be enlightened. In some countries, like Japan, they have regulated to such an extent that they are banning the use of hands free devices due to the recognition of dangers and hazards associated with the attention span problems discussed previously. The manufacturers of mobile devices and automobiles manufacturers’ installation of computerized hand free devices or Blue Tooth type devices are now becoming a major selling point for cars. It will be quite some time before the United States issues laws that will reduce profitability of the cellular phone makers or the car manufacturers. Indeed, it may not happen in the next decade. Many highways presently have billboards describing the dangers associated with testing and cellular phone use while driving that are aimed at teenagers. These billboards are not enough. The federal government should require that signs be placed along all the federal and state highways with the design showing no cell phone use for all drivers and truckers. The recent commercials produced by some government agency showing how someone is paralyzed after using a cell phone similar to the commercials for younger adults who have driven drunk and ended up paralyzed help to raise awareness of the total community.
More has to be done. While drunk driving has been thought by MADD, consumer groups need to take public stances against drivers using cellphones while driving. Since they seem to cause as many accidents as drunk drivers, if not more. With the development of the traffic camera that gives tickets out to drivers who are speeding, a similar development for drivers talking on cell phones should be implemented. Substantial finds to drivers who speak on phones could be imposed. For truck drivers, who are caught. Speaking on a cell phone while driving a dangerous instrumentality of death, the truck driver could be given a an ticket which would then be reported directly to the commercial motor carrier that they drive for. This would then be provided to the FMCSA to be logged into the safer system website. Drivers, names that get multiple tickets for driving while talking on the phone could then easily be screened from a central system so that motor carriers could avoid those drivers that fail to follow the rules. Motor carriers are the employers of truck drivers. Many smaller companies like utility companies and cable companies routinely message their drivers on cell phones and/or other type of cellular or satellite devices, which then immediately pop up a scrawling message to the employee driver of a fleet vehicle. This danger can totally be prevented.
It is foreseeable that a person that receives a message and is told to go to a certain jobsite will be attempting to look at that message device in order to figure out what their next stop should be. The simple way to eliminate this would be to have the driver call into dispatch every 15 minutes to determine where the new job will be. Obviously, this would take additional employees and with the development of computerization, many companies have simply gone to message board systems in order to save profit. With the number of accidents rising due to these types of incidents, perhaps profits should be forgiven in order to improve safety and spare lives. Only true action will help to reduce and eliminate dangerous fleet truck drivers on the nation’s roadways and highways. These accidents are so commonplace that they provide an abundant supply of motor vehicle accident cases for personal injury attorneys who recognize how dangerous the development of the cellular phone system has been.
FAILURE TO WATCH FOR BLIND SPOTS
Truckers and blind spots go hand in hand. These are very hazardous areas where accidents are known to occur. The California driver handbook has a section on blind spots for vehicles. It diagrams the actual areas where truckers may have a blind spot. These include areas immediately behind the tractor-trailer. They include the areas that are in a triangle going backwards from where the driver can see at the front window of the cab and angle backwards behind and to the side of the cab. The driver cannot see at a certain angle to the back, on either side of the semi. The blind spots additionally include the area that is immediately to the right of the passenger side of the front cab of of the tractor and immediately in front of the semi. All of these areas are blind spots. Many accidents occur because of the truck driver’s failure to recognize there may be cars in these blind spots. The truck driver will rapidly change lanes and guess what happens? An accident. The operators of the cars may unknowingly stay in the blind spots because of their fear to pass the larger, heaving and apparently more dangerous tractor-trailer. The State of Utah has a page on the World Wide Web called No-Zones And Blind Spots. This government publication helps a driver of a vehicle learn how to stay where a truck driver can see the smaller passenger car or motorcycle.
Like California, this discusses the most well known blind spots. The illustration shows the passenger car operator the danger spots on the sides of the tractor and trailer. There are No-Zones to the left of the truck driver going to his immediate left and backwards behind him. There are No-Zones to the passenger side. No-Zones that are much more dangerous are on the passenger side of the cab going backwards to behind the area of the trailer. There is a front No-Zone where the truck driver sits too high see smaller vehicles and objects in front of the truck driver while moving. Finally, they address the rear No-Zone area. This publication indicates a known fact that big rigs have several blind spots due to their size and height. Areas were truck drivers cannot see around the rig and trailer are called No-Zones. No-Zones and blind spots mean the same thing. Generally, blind spots are one of the leading causes of tractor-trailer accidents due to the fact that both the operator of the large tractor-trailer and the car fail to realize the dangers inherent within approaching the blind spot areas beside, behind and in front of the large trucks.
Blind spots are known risk factors for truck drivers. The industry has attempted to create large mirrors the try to eliminate the blind spots. The problem with the mirror system is that it cannot completely eliminate the blind spots. This is why truck drivers must be exceptionally careful when moving from side to side, accelerating or decelerating too quickly. If a smaller passenger vehicle or a motorcycle is in a blind spot and they do not recognize that vehicle or motorcycle being there, then the likely event that will occur is a an accident causing death or injury to the motorist or cyclist. Blind spots are likely worse at night time. As a result of the increased blind spots during the night, it makes sense to stay as far away from truck drivers as possible. A smart motorist will stay away from the blind spots and will attempt to pass the tractor-trailer as quickly as possible so that they are not hesitating and staying in a blind spot area. Fear of the trucks leads to thousands of accidents because drivers fail to immediately pass the blind spot in a rapid fashion.
Blind spots may also be caused by the construction of the truck or tractor. Support pillars in the cab are usually very wide to protect the driver from roll over accidents. The width of these pillars creates additional blind spots for the truck driver. The driver cannot see through the pillar so the driver must use mirrors and smaller mirrors on the mirrors to look for vehicles before making abrupt side movements. due to pillars; when a car is being constructed, there may be pillars, which cause blind spots. Usually double checking and/or moving your head a bit helps eliminate the blind spots caused by these pillars. The older the model of truck or car the more likely the pillar has a design flaw that will lead to blind spots and accidents. Part 393.80 of the FMCSR describes the requirements for rear-vision mirrors. This regulation requires that every bus, truck and truck tractor shall be equipped with 2 rear-vision mirrors, one at each side, firmly attached to the outside of the motor vehicle, and so located as to reflect to the driver a view of the highway to the rear, on along both sides of the vehicle code. All such regulated rear vision mirrors and the replacements shall meet, as a minimum, the requirements of FMVSS No. 111 (49 CFR 571.11). The DOT and the FMCSA recognized this need quite some time ago.
Newer inventions like rear vision and side vision cameras should be placed in all tractor-trailers and large trucks so that the truck driver has a series of viewing screens to see the entire surrounding area of the tractor-trailer, including the front, the sides and the rear behind the vehicle. This would help to eliminate an enormous amount of accidents. Many backing accidents are mostly due to blind spots; looking back and reversing the vehicle is considered to be one of the most difficult challenges for a truck driver due to the size and length of the entire big rig. Pedestrians are routinely crushed and/or killed when a truck driver fails to recognize the person behind the rig. Cameras in the rear would easily reduce the number of these accidents. Almost 840,000 accidents in the United States are caused anndually due to blind spots. These types of accident lead to approximately 300 deaths every year. The most common blind spot is rear quarter blind spot. This is when the driver cannot look at both sides of the area towards the rear of the vehicle. The most common accident due to blind spots takes place while drivers change lanes. Lack of Proper Training Many truck driver accidents regarding blind spots are caused from improper training. Part 380.201 states the general requirements under the FMCSR for the driver-training program.
This requires the employer to instruct the driver in basic orientation, basic operation, safe operating practices, advanced operations and non-driving activities. Part 380.305 on employer responsibilities under the FMCSR requires that no motor carrier shall knowingly allow, require, permit or authorize a driver-instructor in its employment or under contract to the motor carrier to provide the driver training unless such person is a qualified LCV driver-instructor under the requirements of that subpart of the FMCSR. Part 380.505 on proof of training under the FMCSR requires that an employer who uses an entry-level driver, meaning a first time a driver, must ensure that the driver has received a training certificate, containing all the information contained in Part 380.513 from the training provider. These training requirements have many different variables and driver training modules that must be taught to the truck driver. They include, but are not limited to learning accident basic operation skills, including coupling and and uncoupling, basic control and handling skills, basic maneuvers skills, turning, steering and tracking skills along with proficiency development. Under the safe operating practices section of that regulation it requires that the truck driver shall learn how to interact with traffic, learn how to handle speed and space management, learn how to operate safely in day and night operations, learn how to operate safely in extreme driving conditions and, learn proficiency development.
The advanced operation section teaches the driver about hazard perception skills, hazardous situations and maintenance and troubleshooting. The appendix to Part 380 on unsafe operating practices requires that there be interaction between student drivers, the vehicle and the traffic environment. They must teach driver-students how to apply their basic operating skills in a way that insures safety for not only the truck driver, but for all other road users under various road, whether an traffic conditions. The same section notes that night operations are especially dangerous. It states that night driving present specific factors that require special attention on the part of the driver. Changes have to be made in vehicle safety inspection, vision, communications, speed, management and space management skills. These are all needed to deal with the special problems that night driving presents. When truck drivers are not trained about all of these special skills which include how to properly drive with known blind spots then innocent people are injured and killed. The Consequences The consequences of failing to have drivers who are appropriately trained in the special driving skills necessary to operation of a large truck or tractor-trailer are obvious. Truck drivers who are untrained lead to to catastrophic injuries causing carnage and misery.
Truck drivers who are properly trained through supervision and monitoring with an appropriate disciplinary system based on the Rule of 3 disciplinary process will help the entire industry prevent accidents. Drivers who have accidents, even with minor property damage, must be retrained. If they are not retrained, they will cause more severe accidents. The next time the truck driver has an accident related to safety or blind spots, the truck driver has to be immediately reprimanded, retrained and retested. Following a strict path of compliance with this system will lead to fewer and fewer accidents. When motor carriers turn a blind eye to the training regulations of the FMCSR, they are knowingly and wantonly causing death and destruction. Safer Truck and Tractor Design The design of these large vehicles contribute a great deal to the inefficiency of the truck drivers ability to see all around their big rig. The vehicles can be designed in such a way that would allow the truck drivers to get rid of their blind spots.This includes substantial mirrors, viewing cameras and television monitors for the front, sides and back of the tractor-trailer or large trucks. The technology is presently available in passenger cars. The motor carrier industry and the manufacturers of the tractor-trailers are hesitant to implement the newer camera and sonar technology solely due to cost. Regulation must be implemented to require the new technology to become mandatory on newly built trucks. Similar regulation should be required to retrofit the older trucks and tractor-trailers. Conclusion The causes of truck driver errors, as discussed, are many.
Education, training, supervision and monitoring of the education process of the truck drivers in order to comply with the FMCSR will lead to fewer accidents and deaths. Manufacturers of large trucks and tractor-trailers must be forced by mandatory regulation to add safety devices to the these large instrumentalities of death and destruction. Motor carriers must institute and follow disciplinary policies, including the Rule of 3. Simply creating safety policies is not enough. The policy and disciplinary process must be fully implemented, followed, taught, analyzed and carried through to its end means in order to have any true of effect on society. Bad truck drivers need to be eliminated. Other motor carriers that have good truck drivers need to be able to recognize which bad drivers are not worthy of hiring. The bad truck drivers who go through a system of rehabilitation can be retrained and retested. If proven worthy of a second chance, then they can be placed back on the nation’s highways. There is no reason to keep a truck driver who continuously violates the FMCSR and State statutes and regulations which are designed to promote safety to the motoring public with a CDL where that driver can wreak further havoc on society and innocent drivers and pedestrians.
As each new technology becomes available, the government must study the cost benefit analysis for each particular product. For those products that have a reasonable cost with a high promotion of safety, then regulation should require their use on all old and new trucks and tractor-trailers. Education of truck drivers must be done at the very mimimum on a quarterly basis. The truck drivers must attend continuing education classes, like attorneys, doctors and other business professionals so that they learn the changes in the laws and learn how to comply with the laws. Drivers must be comprehensively tested in a written format to determine whether or not they are safe to operate a heavy large truck. If a truck driver cannot be properly tested to show a basic level of comprehension over the information studied in the motor carrier and the government should prevent that truck driver from driving. Those types of truck drivers need to get a different occupation that does not affect public safety.
The main causes of truck driver errors include the discussions in the preceding sections regarding fatigue, alcohol use, drug use, texting on a cellular phone or device, talking on a cellular phone orr even a hands-free celluar phone or device and failing to be properly trained in all aspects of safe driving skills provides the reader with a basic understanding of why large trucks kill humans, whether they be pedestrians, motorcyclists, passenger car drivers and other operators of smaller vehicles. For the most part, education of the truck driver with proper monitoring, supervision and comprehensive testing will help clean up the US highways and stop the carnage.
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