A look at risk factors in truck accidents

The government is reviewing safety impact of fatigue, speeding and substance use among commercial drivers.

According to the 2013 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records, 40 people died in Washington State in accidents involving large trucks. Five of those deaths occurred in King County. The prior year, eight people lost their lives in large truck collisions in King County. Another six such fatalities were recorded in the county in 2011.

What causes large truck accidents?

Truck accidents can involve a variety of commercial vehicles such as semi-trucks, garbage trucks, tankers and more. The causes of truck accidents can also vary but truck driver fatigue, speeding and impairment are some known risk factors.

Business Insurance indicated that a proposal has been put forth to install speed limiters in commercial vehicles. These devices monitor the speed of drivers, a factor involved in as many as 18 percent of truck accidents.

According to USA Today, speed along with fatigue was noted to be the cause of a crash in New Jersey earlier this year that claimed the life of a nationally known comedian. The driver had already driven 800 miles and chose to continue without stopping, despite having plenty of time before reaching his destination at the required time. He was also travelling 20 miles per hour over the speed limit in a construction zone.

How can the risk be reduced?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is attempting to tackle these safety issues. In addition to investigating the installation of speed limiters, other actions are underway that target fatigue and impairment.

In 2013, the FMCSA put into action new rules that governed the working hours and break times for drivers. Referred to as the hours of service, the new rule was highly unpopular. Supply Chain Digest reported that the controversy resulted in Congress ordering a stay and a mandate for further research. JOC.com recently stated that all data has now been collected and will be compiled into a comprehensive report. The report could be presented to the Department of Transportation's Inspector General by the end of the year.

The FMCSA is cracking down on impaired driving in two ways. The first is through the use of randomly administered substance tests. Bulk Transporter explains that the decision to continue these tests was recently made because of the high number of failed tests to date.

The second program involved the development of a new database and pre-hire process. The Commercial Carrier Journal provides details of how employers will soon be required to conduct a full inquiry into the database about any driver it wishes to hire. All substance test and abuse data for every driver will be contained in this database.

What should individual drivers do?

While the government continues to find ways to keep people in Seattle safer, every individual must be prepared to take action when needed. If a truck accident occurs, contacting an attorney immediately is important.