Could a revamped pay structure mean fewer truck accidents?

A new federal study could determine if pay practices have an impact on truck driver safety.

One of the nation's leading highway safety agencies - the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration - has recently proposed a study that could potentially revolutionize the industry of freight hauling in America. The study could take months or even years to complete, but focuses in on the various pay structures commonly seen amongst trucking companies. The stated purpose of the FCMSA investigation is to determine whether different pay models have a measurable impact on the rate at which truck accidents occur.

Why has this study been proposed?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 4,000 people lost their lives in truck accidents in 2012 alone; another 104,000 people were injured during that time. There are many different recognized causes of truck accidents, including:

  • Improper loading or securing of cargo
  • Failing to perform necessary maintenance on the cab or trailer, including required oil changes, brake checks, tune-ups and transmission repairs
  • Truckers failing to take adequate rest breaks pursuant to federal hours of service regulation (and forging log books to indicate that breaks were taken)
  • Operating a commercial truck while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Distracted truck drivers
  • Going too fast for weather, road or traffic conditions
  • Drivers falling asleep behind the wheel
  • Inadequate training on how to deal with changing traffic levels or road surfaces

There is one issue that ties in with several of those known causes of crashes: the way in which truckers are compensated. Truckers whose entire compensation is tied to the miles they drive, without being paid for the time necessary for other related tasks like loading and unloading the trailer, rest and meal breaks, performing maintenance, etc., might be more prone to speeding or failing to take adequate precautions because they are worried about earning a living. Just a simple tweak in the pay structure, however, to ensure that drivers are paid for "down time" like that spent waiting to unload a delivery or load a new one could be enough to give a truck driver peace of mind needed to act cautiously and responsibly without being singularly focused on making money.

Staying safe on the road with large trucks

Clearly, there are some reckless truck drivers out there who have caused accidents and serious injuries (like spinal cord damage or traumatic brain injuries) by acting negligently. That doesn't necessarily mean that you are at the mercy of the myriad trucks that pass you by on the nation's roadways at any given time. There are ways in which you can decrease your chances of being involved in a truck accident.

For example, maintaining adequate following distance behind a truck can help prevent you from rear-ending one should it stop suddenly. Staying out of a truck's blind spots (directly in front, directly behind and on either side to the rear of the cab) is also a responsible practice that can lessen the risk for you. In addition, not driving while distracted, particularly when in the vicinity of a large truck, can decrease your chance of having to make sudden evasive maneuvers that a truck simply can't execute.

Only time will tell if the new FMCSA study will have an impact on truck accident rates in America. One thing is for sure, though, if you have been involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler, big rig or semi truck, you have legal rights; speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more.

Keywords: truck accident, trucking accident, semi truck, motor vehicle accident, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury

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