How Truck Driver Delivery Expectations Lead to Risks
A typical commercial truck driver will travel between 2,000 and 3,000 miles per week. Since the trucking delivery pressures can be extremely intense, many drivers will make judgment errors to meet expectations. If too many things go wrong at the same time, the combination of events is likely to increase the possibility of an accident.
The Trucking Delivery Pressures of Being a Truck Driver
Federal law places restrictions on the amount of driving time available for commercial truck drivers. This is known as the hours-of-service rules, or HOS. Drivers are only allowed to operate the vehicle within an 11-hour window of time. Any delays caused by dispatchers, dock workers, shippers, receivers or road conditions can reduce the amount of time available to the driver.
Every aspect of the driver’s job is likely to cause some delay if there are problems. These issues are beyond the driver’s ability to control, and this increases the level of trucking delivery pressures experienced on a regular basis. Many drivers feel that they are being punished for situations that are beyond their ability to influence. At the same time, they are still expected to deliver cargo safely and on time. Anything that reduces the time available to the driver to operate their vehicle can add to this sense of stress and pressure. These are called causal factors, and they can impact the safety of the driver as well as the general public who shares the road with these dangerous vehicles.
Examining the Evidence and Aftermath of Truck Collisions Caused by Trucking Delivery Pressures
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration defines the concept of causation in very clear terms. The factors that are likely to increase the risk of a collision with a large commercial truck are all considered to be qualified as causation factors. The data causation study conducted by the FMCSA examined more than 1,000 different factors that may have contributed to crashes. During the period of this study, there were over 120,000 crashes, and 141,000 of these involved commercial trucks.
The conditions that will impact the total time required to complete a delivery include the following:
- Pre-trip inspections: The entire pre-trip inspection can take between 30 to 50 minutes. This involves checking the fluids, brakes, tires, reflectors, air pressure and other aspects of the truck’s general condition. The pre-trip inspection is necessary, but many shippers and receivers refuse to allot enough time for it within the delivery schedule. This can make the driver feel under pressure to start operating the vehicle before the inspection is complete because the only other option is to be late to the delivery appointment.
- Dock waiting times: Drivers are effectively subsidizing the trucking company when they wait at docks to get loaded or unloaded without pay. Unexpected waiting times add pressure to the driver who will get behind schedule because of the delays, but the stress of losing time is compounded by the loss of income. Waiting times cost drivers between $1,300 and $1,530 every year, according to one estimate.
- Night driving and visibility: Night driving and impaired visibility can contribute to the reduction in speed. However, drivers who face trucking delivery pressures to get cargo delivered within a specific time might be tempted to go faster. In night situations, the headlights might not provide the driver with enough light to see far ahead, and the normal distance that is visible is reduced dramatically at night. Many dispatchers, employers, shippers and receivers fail to appreciate that it requires more time to drive safely at night than in the day. As a result, they schedule the driver accordingly but give the driver no control over the working hours or driving conditions.
- Grade of surface: Large commercial trucks require more time to get up and down steep hills than is needed on a flat surface. However, the grade of the hill, mountain or surface rarely appears on the maps used by the driver’s dispatcher. As a result, there is little awareness of the difference in time that it can take for the driver to make the same miles on a steep grade compared to a flat surface. These misunderstandings only increase the stress and fatigue of the driver.
- Truck condition: Vehicle maintenance plays a central role in the performance of the commercial truck during tight maneuvers, which are often necessary to avoid colliding with other vehicles and objects. Anything that reduces the reaction of the truck will add to the likelihood that an accident will occur. This includes the tires, for example. Some companies will put used or mismatched tires on the front of the vehicle to save money. However, this puts the driver and other road users at risk if there’s a blowout. Other maintenance issues include electrical functioning, steering alignment, tire inflation, brakes and engine fluids.
- Traffic: Traffic congestion can slow down the truck, but this might not affect the expectations for delivery. The truck driver might be pressured into driving faster than a safe speed during traffic congestion. Of course, this increases the risk of a collision. Common issues include close following and reckless lane changes. These risky behaviors in traffic might be a futile attempt to gain back time that was lost earlier in the trip. Once the traffic begins to speed up, the driver might be tempted to accelerate to unsafe speeds to make up the lost time as well, but this is risky.
- Construction: Construction zones present unique road hazards that can increase the chances of a collision with a truck. For example, traffic cones, signs and construction equipment can make it difficult to see the road clearly. The construction workers are supposed to follow certain rules, but an accident can occur if they fail to do so at all times.
- Fatigue: Driver fatigue contributes to these other risk factors exponentially. Fatigue is closely associated with driver error, which is involved in most traffic accidents. When the other conditions are present, the fatigue can become the last element that pushes the driver to the point of making a serious mistake. Any collision with a commercial truck is a serious, life-threatening event. That’s why an injured victim may want to partner with a truck accident lawyer.
The Aftermath of a Truck Accident
Being in a collision with a commercial vehicle can be a confusing and traumatizing experience. It’s critical to understand that certain legal expectations exist. Taking the right steps will increase your chances of receiving compensation for injuries and other damages. A truck accident lawyer is critical for helping you navigate the complex legal system that surrounds any commercial truck-related incident. Many variables could be involved in an accident, including trucking delivery pressures, and this can affect your legal case.
Injured crash victims often face a variety of expenses, from medical bills to lost wages from missed work. If you need help from an aggressive truck accident lawyer who serves clients in New Jersey, contact the office of Rebenack Aronow & Mascolo. You can reach our New Brunswick office at (732) 247-3600 and our Somerville office at (908) 448-2560.