Commercial motor vehicle drivers in West Virginia and across the U.S. are liable to work while in a drowsy state of mind, which is dangerous. Research shows, for example, that being awake for 18 consecutive hours impairs one in the same way that having a BAC of .08 does.
Sleep apnea is a dangerous disorder that affects about 4% of the general population. However, as those in the trucking industry are aware, it affects around 35% of truckers in West Virginia and across the U.S. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea, occurs when a person's throat muscles and mouth palate relax and collapse, occasionally blocking the upper airway and interrupting sleep.
In West Virginia and across the nation, large trucks are a constant on the roadways. Since these big vehicles can cause a lot of damage, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has a yearly International Roadcheck inspection blitz to help encourage compliance with federal safety regulations. The 2020 inspection spree has been scheduled for May 5-7
The number of fatal truck accidents in West Virginia and around the country rose dramatically between 2009 and 2018. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the agency tasked with regulating the trucking industry, but its last large commercial vehicle accident study was released more than 15 years ago. The FMCSA plans to conduct another large truck accident study due to changes in vehicle safety technology, road design, and driver behavior, and it made a formal proposal on Jan.14 asking for input about factors that should be taken into consideration.
Professional truck drivers understand the importance of driving safely and responsibly on West Virginia roads and others throughout the country. However, large truck accidents do happen, and according to one study, large truck drivers were likely to blame in 44% of such crashes. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) found that there were three factors that caused most collisions involving commercial vehicles. One of the main causes were brake problems with the trucks themselves.
For people in West Virginia, truck accidents pose a serious threat on the road. Jackknifing is a particularly dangerous situation on the highway for tractor-trailer drivers to avoid. When a trailer jackknifes, the wheels on the trailer lose traction, and it swings up into a close angle with the cab of a large truck. The front cab or tractor can also jackknife although this is less common. Any pedestrians, cyclists or other vehicles in the way may be crushed or seriously affected.
Traffic accidents involving semi-tractor trailers claim thousands of lives each year in West Virginia and around the country. However, the vast majority of these deaths occur in crashes that could have been avoided. Driver error is the most common cause of truck accidents, but it is passenger vehicle drivers who are to blame more than 80% of the time. Common mistakes that lead to fatal truck crashes include not maintaining a safe distance, changing lanes without signaling and reckless maneuvers born out of impatience.
Operation Safe Driver Week is a program organized by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance to highlight the importance of truck drivers as well as passenger car operators following the rules of the road. From July 14 through 20, police gave out nearly 47,000 tickets as part of the week of action. Most of the citations were related to speeding. In addition to the 46,752 traffic tickets, drivers received 87,624 warnings for different types of traffic violations, including failing to wear a seat belt or minor maintenance issues that were not severe enough to pull a vehicle off the road.
Truck crashes can be devastating for people in West Virginia. Because of the massive size and weight of these vehicles, the effects of a collision are far more likely to be severely damaging or even deadly to others on the road. In 2017, 4,102 people were killed in trucking accidents across the country and many thousands more were seriously injured. Indeed, 82% of people killed in these crashes were drivers or passengers in other vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists.
Truck drivers in Virginia and around the country will be subject to less stringent hours-of-service regulations if revisions to the rules announced on Aug. 14 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are implemented. Organizations representing truck drivers and logistics companies have long called for more flexible regulations and claim that relaxing the rules could actually make the roads safer, but groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety oppose the changes and say that they will lead to more accidents and more deaths.