It’s 8:30 P.M. on the I-75. A truck driver sips his coffee and shakes his head like a wet dog, struggling to keep his eyes open for a few more miles. He’s been driving almost non-stop since 10:00 A.M., just like yesterday and the day before that. The 11-hour workdays have caught up with him; he’s barely able to keep his truck on the road. But he can’t stop; edging out just a few more miles will cover the cost of dinner for the night, and the fleet controller is pushing him to make it to the designated stop before the end of his shift. This snapshot illustrates the problem with tired truckers.
A Frightening Trend
Drowsy driving is a widespread issue for truck drivers. In one study, 40% of truckers surveyed admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) had similar results in their study, which found that 13% of all truck crashes (about 1-in-9) occurred because the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel.
But why are so many truckers taking this risk? Why do they push themselves beyond their limits, risking their livelihood, their lives, and the safety of those around them? Most truckers and most studies cite the same causes: The payment structure and pressure from management.
The Root of the Problem
Truckers are paid by distance, not by hours. They typically earn between $0.20-$0.40 per mile. That means truckers are encouraged to go as far as possible in an 11-hour workday because their livelihood and comfort are on the line.
Because of this, truckers get paid less to sit in traffic and maneuver adverse weather, which encourages them to go farther to make up for lost wages. That’s a serious contributing factor in pushing out those last few miles, but it’s not the only cause.
Year after year, the NHTSA finds pressure from management plays a significant role in a truck driver’s willingness to push beyond their physical limits and the legal limit. Truck drivers are typically limited to 11-hour days or no more than 14-hours in a 24 hour period.
Management’s goal of having the truck reach a specific place within a tight time frame is at direct odds with the unpredictability of traffic and weather. Poor managers may push drivers beyond their limits, encouraging them to get in a few more miles before the end of their shift to keep them on schedule. Because of these pressures, an annual 58,000 truck drivers lose the battle to stay awake and end up in a serious crash.
If you or someone you love suffered severe injuries or even wrongful death in a trucking crash, you might have a case. If you’d like an experienced Riverdale truck accident attorney from Law Offices of Falanga & Chalker to evaluate your case, please don’t hesitate to send us an email or call (470) 450-1164.