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Trucker lifestyle factors and habits may cause many large truck crashes

A new study shows that many common trucker health problems and lifestyle factors may be associated with a heightened risk of truck crashes.

Over a decade ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration commissioned the Large Truck Crash Causation Study to identify common factors in large truck accidents. This study found that most of the surveyed crashes caused by trucks or their drivers involved driver-related variables, such as poor decisions or failure to recognize hazards. This finding is troubling, since large truck crashes in Huntsville often have devastating consequences for other motorists as well as truckers.

Sadly, more recent research suggests that driver-related factors may still be a significant cause of large truck accidents. Specifically, various health problems and habits that are common in the trucking industry also appear to be correlated with a higher risk of crashes.

Accident risk factors

This research, which was published in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, was based on health data and survey answers collected from 797 truckers. The participating drivers answered questions about their demographics, driving history and psychological or social factors. The researchers also collected objective physical data, such as blood pressure, height and weight.

The study found that nearly four out of ten of the surveyed drivers had experienced at least one accident. Additionally, 16.6 percent of all drivers had been involved in multiple crashes. The researchers found that the following factors were most frequently associated with these accidents:

  • Cell phone use
  • Exhaustion after work
  • High pulse pressure

Other common risk factors included increasing age, low back pain, anxious feelings, heart disease, and alcohol use. Troublingly, many of these factors may be common among truckers. As an example, truckers are at enhanced risk for various health problems due to their occupations. This particular study found that over 60 percent of the surveyed drivers were obese, which could contribute to high pulse pressure, heart disease and fatigued feelings.

Preventable crashes

Sadly, there may not be adequate measures in place to address many of these risk factors. For example, truck driver fatigue is widely considered a safety concern. The LTCSS indicates that trucker fatigue causes about 13 percent of crashes. This may even underestimate the problem, since fatigue can be difficult to establish in an accident. Unfortunately, although the FMCSA has sought to increase required driver rest periods to reduce fatigue, the trucking industry has resisted stricter regulation.

On a similar note, many drivers are currently allowed to operate trucks despite suffering from health risk factors identified in the study. The FMCSA does require truckers to undergo medical screenings to prove that they are physically fit to operate their vehicles. Still, in light of the study findings, stricter criteria may be needed to protect truckers as well as other motorists from accidents.

Accident risk in Alabama

Although large truck crashes have become less common in Alabama over the last decade, they still take a significant toll. In 2012, over 5,798 such crashes occurred, resulting in 1,562 injuries and 90 fatalities. Sadly, a significant number of these accidents may have involved preventable driver-related factors, such as fatigue.

When large truck accidents occur due to unnecessary or known risks, other involved road users may have legal recourse. If a trucker undertook reckless actions or failed to operate a vehicle safely for other reasons, injury victims may be able to recover compensation. Anyone who has been harmed or lost a loved one in a large truck crash may benefit from consulting with an attorney about the available remedies.