This is the second in a two-part post about truck accidents and safety regulations.
One thing that makes truck driving a more dangerous occupation today is the sheer number of trucks on the road, compounding the potential consequences of a sleepy driver behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound vehicle. It’s not only that truck drivers a putting in more hours behind the wheel without sleep, but the situations in which they have to drive. Truck driving is a more dangerous occupation in the highways around New York City than it was 20 years ago. Being fatigued makes it even more dangerous.
However, it is still difficult to obtain data about accidents caused by sleepy drivers, unless the driver admits to being fatigued, as was the case in the accident involving Tracy Morgan. The few studies that have been done reveal that sleep deprivation is a more common cause of truck accidents than drugs or alcohol. Fatigue is almost certainly underreported, as well, as drivers do not want to admit fatigue and be found liable for an accident.
Trucking industry organizations dispute these figures, saying that driver fatigue plays a role in about seven percent to truck accidents. Until there is a blood test for fatigue similar to the blood test for alcohol, all statistics will almost certainly underreport fatigue, according to the former chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Another safety proposal still pending is for truck companies to use electronic logging devices that are similar to black boxes on airplanes. Although some truck companies already use them, these are not universal, and cannot guarantee that an accident caused by fatigue will not occur. For example, the accident that injured Tracy Morgan involved a truck with GPS and an electronic logging system. It also had anti-collision technology that was supposed to notify the driver if there is a car in a neighboring lane or the truck is approaching slow or stopped traffic.
Source: New York Times, “Truckers Resist Rules on Sleep, Despite Risks of Drowsy Driving,” Jun. 16, 2014.