Trucking and Truck Drivers Are Safe

An older article wrote years ago that I published here since I believe the concept is still relevant.
Since the unfortunate accident involving Tracy Morgan and his limo being hit by a tractor trailer this past summer, the safety of tractor trailers on our highways has been called into question.  As someone who has a commercial drivers license A class license, I felt it necessary to inform readers just how safe tractor trailers on the highways of America.
The incident involving Mr. Morgan was quickly reported to be by a driver who had not slept in over 24 hours, all without facts.  His employer released a contradictory statement, until the case is resolved (he is charged with assault) we will not know the real truth.  There is a truth about truck drivers and fatigued driving, and it is that only 1.4% of fatal truck accidents in 2010 were the result of truck driver fatigue.  Drivers of passenger cars and tractor trailers actually have the same fatality rate (1 fatality per 1.3 million miles) per miles driven.  Also, in 2012, large trucks were only involved in 10 percent of all highway crashes involving fatalities.
Another common misconception about accidents and truck drivers is that the truck driver is often at fault.  A study of fatal car-truck crashes by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found car drivers were at fault 71% of the time, truck drivers 16% of the time and both to blame 10% of the time. (The remaining 3% were no-fault collisions pegged to a combination of factors.)  This is corroborated by New York State data as well.  It is most often that drivers of passenger cars are the ones making the reckless moves, as passenger vehicles are far more controllable at speed; a driver can correct an errant move with a quick tug of the steering wheel while a tractor trailer driver would be so lucky to have the same ability.  Most passenger car drivers do not know that a 40-ton tractor trailer needs about 200 more feet to stop than a 2-ton sedan. Most passenger car drivers also do not know that a driver’s peripheral vision is limited by the size of the vehicle.
Speaking of a tractor trailer drivers peripheral vision, in New York a passenger car driver can be ticketed for continuously driving in the ‘NO-Zone’ of a tractor trailer.  These ‘No Zones’ are the blind spots that exist around the vehicle.  A driver of a passenger car making a wrong move here would likely result in a car-truck accident.
Most passenger car drivers have to drive perfectly 1 day of their lives, the day of their road test.  After that most drivers let their skills evolve, while never seeking to improve them.  Drivers of heavy trucks are required in the United States to have special licenses, medical certifications, and increased training.  To drive a tractor trailer on the interstates, a driver must also be 21 or older.
Drunk driving is hardly ever discovered to be a cause of tractor trailer accidents; this statistic is very different when it comes to passenger cars.  In 2012 3% of truck drivers fatally injured had a BAC level of > .08 compared to 33% for passenger car drivers.  Truck drivers are not allowed to be on the road with a BAC >= .04.  Truck drivers are also required by law to undergo employment drug screening.  A database of positive drug tests is maintained for future employers.
Tractor trailer drivers are also forbidden to use radar detectors to aid in speeding; this is another misconception I often encounter.  I regularly see tractor trailers slowly lumbering up hills more than I do rocketing down the highways of America.  Speaking of up and down hills, highway tractors are bound by physics and their brakes.  A rule in trucking is that whatever gear you use to climb a hill, you need one lower to descend the hill to prevent a roll away.
We all want safer roads and highways; however we must not handcuff the drivers that transport the majority of goods across America with rules that make their jobs unnecessarily difficult while increasing costs to all consumers.  Remember the phrase ‘if you bought it, a truck brought it’, this applies to almost all goods in the United States.  Trucks and their drivers are a critical part of the infrastructure of the United States.  Drivers of these vehicles are safer, have higher levels of training, undergo more scrutiny, and posses more experience behind the wheel than the average American passenger car driver.  In the aggregate they are the safest drivers on the road.  Let’s give them a ‘brake’ and respect their space out there so we can all get to where we are going safely.
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