Summer is in full swing across the United States! Many Americans travel by car every year, so everyone understands that there is always the possibility of a traffic accident. With so many hours spent in cars daily, it is no wonder that there are always a few mishaps, but studies have shown that in a post-Covid-19 country, the people driving the most have somehow gotten worse at it. Traffic has been found to be worse as well, with truck speeds down 6% from 2021 to 2022 in major cities. Maybe it was the few months and years everyone was at home, and perhaps many people got used to not having to drive, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that speeding-related fatalities went up 5% from 2020 to 2021. For accidents involving trucks, the numbers are even worse, with a 13% increase in truck related crashes in that same time period.
What can drivers and trucking companies do to combat this? As much as truckers try to stay safe out on the road for the benefit of other drivers, it is also imperative to keep those driving the big rigs safe as well. Unsurprisingly, most drivers believe that commercial semi-trucks are responsible for the majority of car accidents. However, though, research from the Federal Highway Administration showed that personal, passenger vehicles are responsible for over 70% of accidents with commercial trucks. The Truck Driving Institute surveyed truck drivers for the holiday season last year, and they found that 84% of them plan on taking extra loads around that time, and many truckers do that every year for extra income. Together, those two facts mean that the summer holidays are only different in that there are also more passenger cars on the road as well.
“School’s out for summer!”
Americans are well-known for their penchant to take a road trip in the summer. Whether it is to a national park, an amusement park, or Grandma’s house, most people plan some kind of adventure when the kids are out of school. It is so common, in fact, that gas prices even go up every summer as demand rises from people driving to their vacation destinations.
However, along with people going on vacation, there are also thousands of truck drivers delivering the goods those same people need to stores, offices, and homes across the country. Semi-trucks are responsible for transporting over 72% of the products delivered in the U.S., and that comes with increased risks to both personal and commercial drivers. According to Heavy Weight Transport, Inc., most trucking accidents happen in the middle of the day (around noon) when it is easier to speed outside of rush hour traffic, and most crashes with semi-trucks are attributed to speeding. It is more than driving fast sometimes, though. The most common reasons for trucking accidents are:
- Driver Error
- Driver Fatigue
- Distracted Drivers
- Driving While Intoxicated
- Unsecured Loads
- Low-Filled Liquid Loads
- Rear-end Crashes
- Lack of Training
- Lack of Truck Maintenance
All of these factors can play a role in the truck accidents that handle daily in the United States, and they wreak havoc on the country’s transportation system. Most of the issues on this list can be handled by management, and they should be overseen by supervisors who understand how difficult the driving profession can be. It is important for trucking company supervisors to ensure that their drivers are well-trained and the trucks are well-maintained. By taking care of those last two items, most drivers should understand the ins and outs of their trucks and bring them in for regular services, and, with good training, they will believe in the importance of safe, sober, and undistracted driving. Constant communication between drivers, dispatchers, and supervisors has been shown to make a difference when it comes to taking care of the driver’s wellbeing. When it comes down to it, for some of these accidents, like being rear-ended, there is nothing the trucker can do except call for help, make sure that the load on the back is secure, and hope for the best. The problem with driving out on the open road, as usual, is that drivers are never alone and, no matter how great a truck driver is, they cannot plan for every eventuality out on the road.
The Costs of a Transportation-Based Economy
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that, in 2019, there were 13.65 fatal truck crashes per million American citizens, a 29% increase since the decade began. In 2021 alone, there were 5,601 deaths from truck accidents. Information from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) says that speeding increases the likelihood of these crashes by 47%. All of the numbers in this paragraph represent lives lost on the road, and everyone taking to the road this summer should bear that in mind.
Along with the damages that come from the loss of human life, the monetary costs are exorbitant at best. The average price tag of a commercial truck accident with an injured party is almost $150,000, and, with the rise in the number of accidents every year, insurance claims are twice as likely to exceed $100,000 than they used to a few years ago. Those insurance payouts can get exponentially higher than that, though. In May of 2019, a Pennsylvania man was awarded a $15 million settlement after he was rear-ended by a semi-truck driver who did not realize that traffic was stopped up ahead. That number skyrockets if the accident becomes fatal, costing millions of dollars (one report had the figure of the total cost of a fatal accident at $7.2 million), not to mention the emotional and mental effects that can also be devastating. The toll this stress can take on a truck driver’s mental health in the long run is covered in our blog post from March 15, 2023.
For the trucking industry, controlling losses has to become a top priority. With rising gas prices and less overall freight being shipped throughout the country, every dollar matters in today’s economy. While human lives are the most important piece to protect, it is imperative to consider that new trucks are over $150,000. Maintenance may be expensive, but a new truck is definitely not going to come cheaper. What can management do to help drivers in preventing accidents?
As stated above, supervisors should make sure that drivers are taking care of themselves. Driving tired has been found to be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. The National Safety Council says that being awake for eighteen hours can be equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05% and accounts for thousands of crashes every year. Also, remind drivers to plan ahead this summer. Everyone knows that the roads are going to be busy with commercial drivers and travelers alike, so that needs to be taken into account when planning load pick ups and drop offs, along with understanding the times they will arrive in any cities that will need to be driven through to reach the destination. Passengers and drivers all deserve to show up to their destinations alive and well this summer!
Meaghan Goldberg covers recruitment and digital marketing for Lionzone. A Patterson, GA native, after graduating from both Valdosta State University and Middle Tennessee State University, Meaghan joined Lionzone in 2018 as a digital recruitment strategist before becoming the social media manager.