Are age, driver experience, and valid licenses factors that can cause a semi-trailer accident? What requirements do drivers need to meet in order to be licensed to operate a "big rig?" The reality is that age, lack of experience, and driving a rig without the proper license are factors that contribute to semi-truck accidents on American roads. Even with the stringent training requirements administered and overseen by each state, data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that human errors and negligence can't be eliminated from the accident equation. Even more dangerous is on time delivery requirements for truck drivers. Drivers are pushed to exceeds the hours-of-service limits and push drivers to exhaustion and fatigue.
Each state has different requirements for commercial truck drivers and the 3 classes of licenses that are offered. In general, drivers are required to pass a physical examination and drug test, along with a stringent review of their driving record going back 10 years. Drivers are required to obtain a learner's permit and successfully complete CDL training prior to hauling cargo. This training includes knowledge of road rules, basic controls, and road handling. The process is typically completed in about seven weeks. However, it can take longer if the driver is seeking to obtain endorsements for hazardous materials and specialized cargo. The high demand for truck drivers means that many companies hire new drivers who have little experience with a semi-trailer and put them on longer, more difficult routes that experienced drivers with seniority don't want to take. This places the general public at considerable risk of suffering a serious injury or fatality.
Data gathered by the NHTSA showed that in 2015 there were 3,996 large truck drivers who were involved in fatality causing accidents. Of these, 5% were under the age of 25, and 5% were over the age of 66. Of all accidents, 33% cited at least one driver-related factor as a cause of the crash. These factors included speeding, impairment, distraction, and level of experience. Of the drivers who were involved in fatal accidents, 450 had no CDL, while 22 had licenses that were suspended. A further 37 had licenses that had been revoked, had expired, or were cancelled or disqualified. Digging deeper, the data shows that 13 drivers were not properly licensed for the type of vehicle they were driving and 127 did not have a valid license for the type of vehicle. Simply put, these drivers were not equipped with the knowledge and skills required to handle the vehicles and the cargo they were transporting. This is because trucking companies and their safety departments fail to actually monitor the MVR for the driving records of their drivers on a semi-annual basis.
In light of these numbers, it is surprising that the NHTSA specifically listed driver inexperience as a contributing factor in only 7 accidents in 2015. However, the reality is that the number is almost certainly higher when other factors are taken into account. For example, 298 drivers involved in fatal accidents were cited for driver distraction, and 33 drivers were cited for driving on the wrong side of the road. Improper backing or starts were attributed to 25 drivers in fatal accidents, 5 were listed as being unfamiliar with the roadway, while 15 were cited for overloading the vehicle. While there are a number of reasons these actions could have taken place, it is quite possible that driver inexperience was a factor behind each of these accident causes.
Brad Pistotnik Law represents clients who are involved in accidents with a semi-trailer in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Illinois, Texas, Florida and Missouri. We help clients in Wichita, Junction City, Hugoton, Garden City, Dodge City, Salina, Laredo, Dallas, Fort Worth, Padre Island, Chicago, Decatur, Springfield, Kearney, Omaha, Lincoln, Goodland, Colby, Hays, Phillipsburg, Pittsburg, Guymon, Enid, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, Bonner Springs, and elsewhere in these states recover the compensation needed to recover from the personal injuries, property damage, and wrongful deaths that can happen on I-70, I-35, US 50, and on any of the streets and highways in the region.
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