Highways are full of 18-wheelers and oversized commercial vehicles. It’s not safe to assume, however, that the people operating such heavy machinery are highly skilled and heavily trained professionals. Large trucks cause fatal car accidents every day, and there are several reasons why.
The commercial driver’s license (CDL) exam involves passing a written test, and briefly driving a large truck around a closed area. The examination is similar to what must be done to acquire a regular driver’s license. The training requirement for new truck drivers, after they have earned their commercial driver’s license, is to spend 10 hours in the classroom – that’s just a little over one work day of learning time. By anyone’s standards, the sound of that kind of training, especially for someone who will be operating a huge vehicle, seems insufficient. Of course, it can be argued that learning by experience is better than sitting at a desk, but time on the job is better spent when the newbie is equipped with the right tools to absorb all the information at hand. Otherwise, motor vehicle operators on highways are surrounded by grossly inexperienced – and therefore, dangerous – large truck drivers every day.
Are you easily distracted by your cell phone while driving? Commercial truck drivers are not immune to the pull of technology. And these solo riders are no doubt looking for some stimulation and connection with people after driving alone for hours. Cell phones certainly makes it seem like you have company on long drives. Text messaging, talking on the phone, even surfing the web can lead large-truck drivers to cause distracted driving accidents with smaller motor vehicles. Distracted driving is right on par with drunk driving for accidents and fatalities.
The federal driving limits for truck drivers are to have no more than 14 hours on duty and no more than 11 hours of drive time. Drivers must take breaks for rest, but even that sleep is unlikely to be solid or restorative. At many truck stops, drivers are only allowed to park for a few hours at a time before being cleared out to make room for other drivers to park and sleep. It’s safe to say that, even if they’re fueled by a lot of caffeine, truck drivers are certainly in danger of getting drowsy behind the wheel. And exhaustion is a serious form of distracted driving and cause of auto accidents
Veteran large-truck drivers may feel confident taking it easy behind the wheel because they’ve been on the road for so long. The old-timers may push themselves a little harder to get to their destination because they want to end their trip. They may not rest enough or they may be too comfortable with familiar travel routes and take their knowledge of a road for granted. Beware truck-driving newbies as well as veterans. Their experience does not always come out on top.
It is naïve to assume that every driver of a large truck is qualified to do so. Motor home operators and drivers of private moving vans do not need a CDL license, nor to drivers of military vehicles on active duty, police or fire emergency vehicles, and farm equipment. While many national trucking companies have increased their standards and worked independently to provide weeks of extensive training with senior operators, large-truck drivers are still dangerous.
There are laws in place to protect you if you have been in an accident with a commercial driver, including third-party negligence laws.
David Christensen is an auto accident attorney at Christensen Law, in Southfield, Michigan. He represents families in wrongful death lawsuits. If your loved one was killed in a car crash with a commercial truck, contact Christensen Law today to schedule a free consultation.