Jeremy Thurman on February 21, 2012
The dangerous effects of driving while tired are well documented. This especially becomes a problem for truck drivers who spend many hours every day on the road. Our truck accident attorneys have helped many clients who were injured, or whose loved ones were killed by crashes with semi trucks. It’s rare for someone to survive a crash with a large truck, and the ones who do are often permanently injured. Knowing the dangers of driving while sleepy, why would truck drivers force themselves to stay on the road longer than necessary or legally allowed? The answer, sadly, comes down to economics.
Truck drivers are necessary for our economy to function properly. Our society is largely based on a supply and demand model. For example, people want to buy fresh produce, but if it’s not available where they live, it must be brought in from other cities, states, or even countries where it’s grown in high volume. This is true of every product found in grocery and other retail stores. Consumer demand these products, so manufacturers must supply them. To get those products to the stores, they rely on long-distance truck drivers.
People who drive trucks for long distances do not lead easy lives. They spend most of their time alone in their trucks. They rely on truck stops for meals, showers, and sometimes, places to sleep. Some truck drivers will keep a few necessities in their trucks such as small sleeping berths, miniature refrigerators, and portable televisions. If they most often eat at truck stops or restaurants, their diets are probably not very healthy. Long-distance truck drivers spend months at a time on the road, only getting home for a few days now and then. This life is also stressful for truckers’ families.
Unfortunately, many trucking companies pay their drivers by the mile. So naturally, the more miles they drive, the more money they make. The hours-of-service regulations instituted by the Department of Transportation state that truck drivers can only drive a certain number of hours per day, and must rest a certain number of hours before hitting the road again. But these regulations are difficult to enforce.
To get around them, some truck drivers will speed, putting themselves and others on the road at risk for accidents. Or they will simply drive more hours than they are permitted, and doctor their logs. Not all truck drivers do this, but some do. Driving too many hours in a day, and doing it for prolonged periods causes fatigue, poor judgment, and poor reaction time, increasing the likelihood of truck accidents.
Some trucking companies have tried to remedy the situation by doing away with the pay-by-mile model, and instead paying their drivers a percentage of the loads they haul. This is an improvement, but can also mean drivers will still try to rush through jobs in order to haul more loads, and again, make more money. A study conducted by Wayne State University found that:
A higher pay rate also led to lower separation probability, but this indirect effect only translated into fewer crashes by increasing the retention of older, more experienced drivers.
No one gets rich driving a truck, so it’s difficult to fault drivers for trying to make enough money to support themselves and their families. But a better solution must be found, one that keeps truck drivers, and other drivers on the roads, safer.