If you’ve ever watched a pendulum swing for a long time, you know what it’s like to be mesmerized by the repetitive motion. You stare at the same movement and slowly begin to lose consciousness. This feeling is also common for those who spend a lot of time behind the wheel. When you drive for an extended period of time, especially if you make a living behind the wheel of a truck, the constant flow of trees, fields, cars and road can be a mind-numbing experience.
The stress, tension, and fatigue of constant driving all add up for those who make a living on the road. Driving conditions are often poor for overworked drivers. However, add to that the unsafe practices allowed or encouraged by many trucking companies and you have a recipe for roadway disasters. Truck safety is a serious problem in the United States, where 14% of vehicular fatalities involve trucks. This year in California alone there were nearly 400 truck-related deaths. An increased attention to trucking safety regulations would make the roads substantially safer for all drivers.
Currently, many trucking companies violate safety standards in order to cut costs. Some practices include overloading shipments, hiring unqualified drivers at cheaper wages, ignoring general maintenance on tires, wheels, and brakes, and encouraging drivers to travel faster and spend more than the allowed number of hours driving. This results in over 4,000 fatalities and 80.000 injuries each year from truck accidents alone.
In an investigation of the trucking industry, the American Association for Justice determined that, of the 9 million trucks on U.S. roadways, over 211,000 fail to meet the minimally expected standards of safety. To address this serious problem, safety regulations were reinforced in June 2009 by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The CVSA conducted inspections, of which they notified trucking companies in advance, and still found over 22% of the trucks unfit for safe operation. About half of the unsafe trucks had brake problems. Alarmingly, the industry regarded these results as a success, citing a “deep commitment to the safety of all motorists”.
It is unrealistic to think that we will be able to completely eliminate truck accidents, but according to these investigations, many are easily preventable if companies implement simple safety measures. The trucking industry must be held accountable for putting the public at risk through carelessness and disregard for safety. Better safety standards and a strict enforcement of those standards are needed to promote public safety and keep the death toll at a minimum.