By Jordan W. Charness
Here’s an amazing statistic: according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an offshoot of the United States Department of Transportation, the average cost of a fatal crash involving a truck tractor trailer is a whopping $7,633,600!
These are crashes in which at least one person was killed, and the costs reflect the value of remaining life-years lost by the victims of the crash, in addition to the other costs associated with the crash such as treatment of injured victims, property damage, congestion delays, etc. In all cases, the FMCSA has attempted to include all costs to society that result from the crash, with the exception of pain and suffering for family and friends of crash victims.
True, these costs are the result of tabulations and estimates by the FMCSA and reflect the huge sums awarded for pain and suffering as well as other types of injuries and death resulting from a traffic accident in the United States. Canadian figures are nowhere near as high because our courts do not award the same amounts, and in some provinces, damages caused by vehicle accident injuries are paid for by a provincial insurance policy.
Nevertheless, when you look at all the factors that result from a highway truck crash and look into the long-term effects to the truck driver, the other accident victims, as well as their families and businesses, an accident on the highway has far-reaching impact.
One of the things that directly influences how well a truck driver drives on a particular day is the number of hours of rest and sleep he or she has had during that day versus the number of driving hours. It is for this reason that we have specific laws requiring certain amounts of rest for truck drivers as well requiring the keeping of a log book and an official schedule of driving that must be strictly adhered to.
There have been several cases in the United States where a trucking company has been sued as a result of a trucking accident, claiming that the truck drivers were required to work too many hours which led to driver fatigue and a fatal accident. In order to minimize the risk to everyone, all companies that employ drivers should have specific rules and regulations setting out proper rest times as well as education about fatigue and alertness. This would also include careful scheduling of duties as well as training employees so they have good rest and sleep habits.
Even though I’ve chosen the trucking industry for the purpose of today’s discussion, the same theories apply to all other professions where people are required to spend long periods of time driving for their jobs.
This also relates to those people whose jobs include shiftwork and working overnight when even driving home in the morning can be dangerous due to lack of sleep and driver fatigue.
Lastly, even those of us who do not drive for a living or work overnight shifts should learn that driving while drowsy can lead to an accident causing a perhaps not-so-theoretical $7 million worth of damage!