Why Do Truck Fatalities Keep Increasing Each Year?

Why Do Truck Fatalities Keep Increasing Each Year? Truck driving, a once stable cornerstone profession, has seen a dark trend emerging in recent years. Despite the advancements in technology and safety regulations, fatal truck accidents are on the rise in a big way.

There are more than 3.5 million people in America working as truckers ranging from long-haul drivers, who ship items from state to state, port drivers who bring items from ship yards to warehouses to last mile drivers who deliver items directly to your Chicago doorstep. According to IIHS.org, in 2020, there were 4,014 deaths from crashes involving large trucks, which is a nearly 25% increase since 2010.

What factors may account for this significant increase in fatal truck accidents? Let’s first look at the policies and practices that some trucking companies impose on their drivers.

What do trucking companies have to do with increasing truck fatalities?

Power shifted away from truck drivers and to the trucking companies in 1980, when Jimmy Carter signed the Motor Carrier Act. This legislation deregulated the trucking market to aid in reducing the end consumer prices on goods, but didn’t account for truck driver compensation. Trucking companies used deregulation to cut salaries of their drivers and even allowed companies to classify some of their exclusive drivers as “independent contractors.” Now, according to Business Insider “...base compensation for long-haul truck drivers is down 50% in real terms…” since The Motor Carrier Act came into being.

All of this is to say that trucking companies and their often adversarial relationship with their drivers leads to dissatisfaction and stress on the road. The Atlantic reports that job turnover has reached upwards of 300% for some trucking companies. This means that for one truck driver’s average annual workload, three separate drivers are entering and exiting the company to fulfill those duties. A shocking statistic, but how does this account for the year by year increase in truck fatalities?

Here are a few ways the strained trucking industry makes driving in Chicago less safe for you:

  • Lower driver safety standards: A study by the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence revealed that experience is a more significant factor in predicting the likelihood of a driver being involved in a crash than their age. This implies that a young driver with considerable experience operating trucks is less likely to be involved in a crash than an older driver with limited truck driving experience. With trucking companies facing unprecedented driver turnover, constant training and vetting of new employees makes for porous safety standards and more dangerous Chicago driving.
  • Pay per mile system: In pay per mile truck driver contracts, drivers only earn money for time spent driving. Aside from incentivizing driving through drowsiness, The Wall Street Journal notes that the pay per mile system creates pay-gap-windows during the imperative and time consuming loading and unloading phase of a trucker’s route. Some of these necessary stops can waste up to a day of pay for a driver. This wasted time further encourages drivers to overextend themselves when they are finally on the road.
  • Trucking companies and driver monitoring: A recent report from The New York Times notes that driver monitoring systems take little consideration of health, rest, or weather and road conditions, but rather focus on route efficiency and quick completion. If, for example, a driver has trouble sleeping during their scheduled rest period, increased monitoring will not account for their poor sleep quality. Such automation can lead drivers to neglect proper rest and recovery.
  • Driver fatigue: According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), long-haul truck drivers average 5-6 hours of sleep a night and work an average of 65 hours a week. In a study by the National Safety Council, drowsy driving can have equivalent effects on the body as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. This is especially unsafe considering highway driving often reaches a rate of 100 feet per second.

What is the solution to stop the rise of deadly trucking accidents?

In response to the increasing number of truck fatalities, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has taken action to combat driver fatigue. The FMCSA’s updated 2022 Summary of Hours of Service Regulations has implemented several rules that trucking companies must follow to support their drivers. Here are some key updates:

  • Expanded short hauls to 150 air-miles and a 14-hour shift
  • Allowing up to 2 extra hours of drive time in adverse driving conditions
  • Requiring breaks after each 8-hour interval of driving, with non-driving or off-duty periods applying.

Can I seek compensation for myself or loved ones who were in a truck accident?

Yes. The FMCSA has implemented rules that trucking companies must follow to support their drivers and combat driver fatigue. It is essential for trucking companies to prioritize safety and provide proper training and support for their drivers to prevent truck accidents and ensure the safety of everyone on the road.

In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one is involved in a Chicago truck accident, here are immediate steps to take, if at all possible:

Call 911: Contact emergency services and inform them of the crash, both the police and ambulance services should be notified.

Seek medical treatment: Even if you feel fine, seek medical attention to identify any injuries that may not be immediately apparent.

Try to find witnesses: Collect contact information and full legal names from any witnesses and inform the police of their presence.

Document the evidence at the scene of the accident: Take pictures and or videos without disturbing the scene of the accident.

Avoid posting to social media: Refrain from posting about the accident on social media as it can harm your case.

Complete your own preliminary accident report: Write down the time, date, location, a general description of the accident, estimated speed of vehicles, weather conditions, and draw a diagram of the accident. Include the names and driver's license numbers of all individuals involved. The police will have their own “official” traffic crash report, so it will be helpful to see what you note vs. what makes it into their report.

Seek legal counsel: After gathering this important data, find experienced and trusted counsel from attorneys at Gainsberg Injury and Accident Lawyers.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident due to the negligence of a truck driver or trucking company, contact our experienced Chicago truck accident attorneys at Gainsberg Injury and Accident Lawyers to help you navigate your legal options. We serve all of the Chicagoland area.