Commercial drivers including hotshot truckers are generally skilled and careful drivers for the most part. However, a job in the trucking industry has inherent risks due to the weight and size of the load they carry. Apart from that, other factors also contribute to the vulnerability of truckers to road accidents. These include:
1. Alcohol-impaired Driving
Based on compiled data by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), impaired driving accounts for about 12 percent of accidents under driver error. As per the data, there are about 10,497 fatalities related to alcohol-impaired driving in 2016. That is 23 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the US.
To prevent these accidents from happening, commercial motor vehicle operators which include hotshot truckers are prohibited from driving if their blood alcohol concentration levels are 0.04 or higher.
2. Distracted Driving
Truck drivers often spend long hours on the road, and it can get boring and monotonous, leading some drivers to turn to and use their phones and other devices for entertainment. Looking at the results of the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS), ten percent of the crashes were due to internal and external distractions. This number only shows that distracted driving is a dangerous habit you shouldn’t do.
Even if it is just a fraction of a second that you take off your attention while driving, it may lead to a serious accident. To avoid that, always give your 100% attention as soon as you hit the road.
3. Drug use (legal and illegal)
About 16% of motor vehicle accidents are due to the use of drugs, both legal and illegal. Some of these drivers take drugs at truck stops while others are bold enough to bring it with them in their vehicles.
A significant number of drivers also take drugs as medication for certain conditions such as allergy, high-blood pressure and gut conditions. Unfortunately, some of these medications cause sleepiness and fatigue, which results in impaired driving.
4. Poor truck or trailer maintenance
Many preventable road accidents are also caused by poor truck or trailer maintenance. Common maintenance issues that may cause accidents include:
- Brake failure
- Trailer defects that might cause it to get disconnected from the vehicle
- Suspension failure
- Tire blowouts
- Problems with steering components
- Broken or inoperable headlights, turn signals, or missing reflective stickers
A trucking business is required to periodically and systematically inspect and maintain its vehicles and trailers to keep them in good running condition. The FMCSA made a list of components that you should inspect which include brakes, tires, suspension, wipers, frame and fuel system among others. Compliance with this regulation can greatly help prevent road accidents.
5. Inexperienced driver
Big rigs and trailers can be challenging to maneuver especially for beginners. However, adequate CDL training can help you gain the confidence and skills needed to hit the road.
Truckers generally have tight deadlines which are sometimes not achievable due to poor weather conditions, traffic and other factors. As a result, many truckers are tempted to speed up (if they have a chance) to reach their destination on time. But doing so can cause fatal road accidents as trailers take a considerable amount of time to fully stop after applying their brakes. Moreover, sudden braking may also cause jackknifing, a situation when the trailer bends into a V-shape position with the truck in an uncontrolled skidding movement.
Observe proper speed limit at all times. Planning your trip in advance also helps you find shorter and better routes that can save you time.
7. Unsafe driving practices
The LTCCS also found that 38 percent of driver-error related accidents were due to unsafe driving practices which include:
- Driving too fast under poor weather conditions
- Following the next vehicle too closely
- Frequent changing of lanes
- Failing to use turn signals
8. Improper loading of the trailer
A fully loaded trailer with inadequate securement is an accident waiting to happen. For instance, a sudden heavy cargo shift can cause a trailer to lose control and crash. On the other hand, if a cargo is not properly secured and it spills out from the trailer, it can hit other motorists and become an obstacle on the highway. This also can cause an accident or crash. To avoid these accidents, always observe the best practices in securing loads.
Commercial truck and hotshot trailer accidents can lead to catastrophic consequences which may include serious injuries and even fatalities. Knowing the common causes of these accidents can help you take preventive actions to avoid committing the same mistakes.