Every day on roadways across Massachusetts and the rest of the U.S., commercial truck drivers work long hours to transport their loads. While they perform a necessary service to businesses and consumers who need their goods, a truck driver’s average work week can contribute toward a growing safety menace for millions of people sharing the road. Truck accident statistics provided by Insurance News Net state that for every year over the past decade, an average of 100,000 people were injured and more than 4,000 people killed on U.S roadways by large trucks. Since 2009, these accident rates have increased significantly, which may be due in part to federal trucking regulations that govern how many hours a truck driver is allowed to drive each week.
Truck drivers are required to take 34 hours off after working 60 to 70 hours in a week; however, after this break, they are allowed to resume driving, resulting in an average maximum work week of 82 hours for many drivers. Because this can allow a truck company to hire fewer drivers, and many drivers are paid by the mile, there are several financial incentives for truckers to work long hours and, therefore, become dangerously drowsy. This point was highlighted in the recent well-publicized trucking accident involving comedian Tracy Morgan.
Over the past few years, several Massachusetts bills have been introduced to address the problem of drowsy driving, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. These bills are either still pending or in study, and include the following:
- Requiring overweight commercial drivers to undergo screening for sleep apnea.
- Imposing fines and other penalties for drowsy drivers who cause an accident.
- Introducing a state drowsy driving awareness month.
It remains to be seen how any new laws introduced in Massachusetts and other states will impact the trucking industry and possibly reduce the chances of being injured in a truck accident.