Driving a truck is an inherently dangerous occupation, for truck drivers and those sharing the road with them. The sheer weight and size of a commercial truck will make a truck accident much more serious than a collision between two cars.
And truck accidents do happen. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that in 2019 alone, 4,119 people died in large truck accidents. Of these, 67 percent were occupants of a passenger vehicle; 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcycle riders; and 16 percent were truck drivers. Thousands more motorists are seriously injured each year in truck accidents.
Truck accidents occur for many different reasons, including but not limited to:
- Reckless driving
- Driver fatigue
- Impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Road or weather conditions
- Truck malfunctions, such as faulty brakes or tires
Addressing the cause of truck accidents is essential. Trucking companies can improve their and the public’s safety by following these tips from trucking industry experts.
Steps Trucking Companies can Take to Prevent Accidents
Create a safety culture. Safety starts from within the company and its leadership. Everyone should be talking about safety at required meetings, in training, and as part of the company’s values and goals. Appoint safety managers, have special safety training, and keep safety reminders in trucks and garages. When safety is ingrained into the company culture, everyone benefits.
The safety culture should extend to drivers who are contractors or other third parties. If they are working for your company, they are expected to abide by your rules and values no matter their employment status.
Company leadership should fully understand the latest best practices and safety standards and update their trainings as needed. Implementing just a few safety standards is not effective. Implementing all standards and providing the resources and education to meet them are required.
Make safety a part of driver reviews. Getting product to another location safely should be just as crucial as getting product there on time. Ironically, truck accidents sometimes happen when a driver tries to make good time and arrive by the deadline. A driver’s performance review should include safety ratings in addition to other measurements.
Finally, it is vital to have a written safety plan for each driver so that they fully understand safety expectations. Also, to help them adhere to requirements, provide a safety or accident prevention manual to keep in their cabs. That can ensure they are aware of expected safety behaviors.
Implement pay and reward structures for safety. Trucking companies should look at how they reward safety. Those that do not reward it should start. First, consider a higher pay rate for drivers with excellent safety records. Then, implement bonuses or other rewards to acknowledge drivers who have good safety records. Publicly acknowledging safe drivers, such as at large meetings or through the company intranet or newsletter, can be highly effective.
Appoint safety ambassadors. Truckers who have consistent safe-driving records should be considered for safety ambassador positions. Have them conduct training and make videos for their peers. Sometimes training given by a co-worker rather than a manager or supervisor resonates the most.
Implement new policies. As part of creating a safety culture, it may be necessary to formally adopt new policies or procedures. One of these could be more robust drug testing policies. The use of stimulants or other drugs is not uncommon in the trucking industry. Drivers should know they will be randomly tested for drug use for their own safety and that of the public.
Also, ensure drivers are 100 percent aware of needing to take mandated rest and sleep breaks. Institute better ways to measure and monitor that they are following these federal guidelines. Discipline drivers who ignore these rules. Consider limiting the number of hours or miles driven from midnight to dawn, when many accidents occur.
Unfortunately, some trucking companies set unrealistic deadlines for drivers and even reward those who get their deliveries made ahead of schedule. These practices are not conducive to either safe driving or federal guidelines for breaks and rests.
Offer help and resources. Some truck drivers may suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol, including prescription drugs. Others may have insomnia or other sleep-related issues. Ensure that your company has resources for drivers who need help with addictions, sleep disorders, and psychological problems. They may be worried about losing their jobs if they seek help; show them it is okay.
Invest in technology. There is vast technology available today that supports and monitors safe truck driving. One of these is the use of speed limiters, sometimes called governors, in commercial trucks. These devices limit how fast a truck can go.
Other safety technology includes GPS systems; electronic logging; driver scorecards, which electronically measure speed, braking, and other systems; automatic emergency braking; collision-mitigating technology; and cameras. All will help trucking companies better monitor their drivers’ safety performance.
Ensure inspection compliance. Federal and state guidelines mandate the regular inspection of commercial trucks. Every trucking company needs to comply with these laws as part of its company policies. Inspections and maintenance are essential to safe driving. Brake, steering, and tire failures can lead to devastating truck accidents.
Require pre-trip inspections. An annual inspection will not catch recent problems. Institute a policy and resources to require a pre-trip inspection before any trucker gets in the vehicle. This inspection should be performed by someone certified to inspect and find problems. Make it a rule that all drivers must undergo this inspection before leaving for their route.
Strengthen hiring guidelines. Starting with experienced and safe drivers from day one can help in achieving overall safety goals. Trucking companies should review their driver requirements and amend hiring practices. If a driver does not have all the experience needed, help them with courses and training until they do. Also, provide a strong orientation program for new hires that emphasizes safety expectations.
Train and practice. In addition to training, one-on-one training practices should be a large part of a driver’s annual performance standards. Test them and help them improve where needed. Practice in different weather and road conditions. Offer these paid practices at convenient times and ensure they become part of the driver’s performance review and safety record.
Analyze accidents. Every time a truck driver is involved in an accident, management should thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding it. Analyzing what happened can help managers understand where more training, education, or truck maintenance is needed. Also, retrain all drivers who are involved in an accident to keep safety top of mind. Dismiss drivers whose driving records or accidents are egregious.
Request feedback from motorists. Everyone has seen the How’s My Driving signs on the back of trucks. They work. When people can quickly and anonymously report unsafe driving, they often will do so. These reports help trucking companies identify and discipline drivers who speed, weave in and out of lanes, drive recklessly, or who may be impaired or distracted.
Monmouth County Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Advocate for Truck Accident Victims
A truck accident can be devastating physically, financially, and emotionally. If you or a loved one was involved in an accident involving a truck, the Monmouth County truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law are available to help. We will build a strong case to help you get the compensation for which you are entitled. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.