Truck wrecks are much more serious than other types of traffic accidents, and the fatalities are most often to the occupants of the passenger vehicles who share the road with them. A fully loaded truck can weigh 20 to 30 times that of a car and sit higher off the road, making smaller vehicles less visible and vulnerable to sliding under a truck in a collision. If the truck is hauling hazmat or flammable material, the secondary injuries that can result in an accident are usually catastrophic.
Driving a truck in Missouri and elsewhere requires special training to handle these bulky and very heavy vehicles with an emphasis on safety. Not only that, truck drivers must comply with strict federal hours-of-service regulations that include limiting the number of hours on the road per day, break times and off-duty hours.
Recent delays in new federal rules to provide guidance on training entry-level truck drivers are happening while the trucking industry is suffering a severe shortage of truck drivers. This is causing a surge in the training of new employees who are younger, less experienced, and who often receive shorter training that does not properly prepare them for driving long distances.
Commercial driver’s license program
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that commercial drivers receive training to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in their home state. To pass a CDL test, the driver must exhibit a high level of driving skills, knowledge, experience and physical abilities through special testing. To drive tanker or hazmat trucks or 18-wheelers with double or triple trailers, truckers may have to have special endorsements.
Inadequate training and the pressure to deliver
Unfortunately, truck companies are facing a smaller workforce to handle the same or greater number of shipments, leading them to hire many new drivers directly out of driving school. Although commercial drivers are required to take educational programs to drive a truck, many driving schools offer very short programs and classroom training.
As a result, drivers are younger, less experienced and not prepared to handle long distance runs on a tight deadline. Although Congress originally tasked the FMCSA to create an across-the-board standard for entry-level truck drivers in 2012, the agency has delayed its implementation until 2022. The Entry-Level Driving Training rule would require driver training programs to be in a national registry and provide training for:
- Classroom and behind-the-wheel driving
- Vehicle operation, control systems and dashboard instruments
- Roadside, pre- and post-trip inspections, hours-of-service and driver-whistleblower protections
- Backing and docking
- Distracted driving
Inexperienced drivers and accidents
When truck drivers do not have the proper training or experience to drive long distances in heavy traffic and adverse weather conditions, they pose significant risks to other drivers, and their inexperience can result in driving habits that can be deadly, such as:
- Not breaking in time or following too closely, resulting in high-speed collisions or jackknifing
- Fatigued or distracted driving
- Aggressive or reckless driving
- Alcohol or drug impairment
If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious accident involving a truck, it is important to know where to get help to make sure that a settlement covers medical and hospital bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, pain and suffering and everything else that you have a right to claim.