Commercial trucking accidents are dangerous for obvious reasons. Because commercial trucks are so large and heavy, the occupants of the smaller vehicle are much more likely to be injured or killed in a car-commercial truck crash. However, the fact that truck drivers fare better in collisions with smaller vehicles doesn’t mean that they’re safe—on the road or while performing other job duties.
Commercial Trucking Industry Fatalities
In 2016, 632 heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers were killed in transportation incidents, and another 154 as a result of other on-the-job events or exposures, for a total of 786 occupational fatalities. That’s an increase of 17% from 2011 when 670 commercial truckers died from on-the-job injuries or occupational illnesses.
More commercial truck drivers died as a result of work-related injuries or illnesses than members of any other profession. In fact, commercial motor vehicle drivers accounted for about 12% of all workplace fatalities. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers come in a distant second at 260 fatal injuries in 2016. And, 116 of those injuries occurred in transportation incidents.
Truck Drivers are No. 1 in Non-Fatal Injuries, Too
Truck drivers aren’t just killed on the job more often than those in other professions—they’re injured on more often, too. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), about half of non-fatal work injuries to truckers involve serious strains and sprains.
Why is Commercial Trucking So Dangerous?
One reason commercial truck drivers are at greater risk for occupational injury and death is obvious: they spend long hours on the road, operating heavy equipment, often in unfamiliar areas. In fact, about 2/3 of trucker deaths occur in traffic accidents. Several other factors combine to make the profession dangerous, though.
One reason that commercial truckers at are a high risk of injury is the area in which they work. Loading docks are a particularly dangerous work area. There are several ways in which a truck driver may get injured while unloading his truck at a loading dock, including:
- falls from loading docks, lifts, and truck ladders
- back injuries from lifting heavy items
- repetitive motion injuries from carrying freight
- loading dock separation accidents
- struck by backing 18-wheelers
- accidents with forklifts and other front-end loaders
Fortunately, many of the risks associated with driving a large truck can be mitigated. To minimize the risk of injury or death, commercial drivers should:
- Ensure that they observe hours-in-service rules and get adequate sleep—fatigued driving can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol
- Make sure that the vehicle and equipment are properly maintained—equipment failures such as brake failures and tire blowouts contribute to many large truck accidents
- Slow down—driving too fast for conditions was one of the top five contributing factors identified in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration/National Highway Traffic Safety Association Large Truck Crash Causation Study
- Be aware of the effects of medications—according to the same study, both prescription drug use and over-the-counter-drug use were in the top 10 contributing factors
- Follow appropriate lifting procedures to avoid back injuries and muscle strains
- Observe all safe handling regulations and procedures when working with hazardous chemicals
- Ensure that all materials being loaded into or onto the truck are loaded safely and effectively secured
Liability for Truck Driver Injuries and Death
Determining liability when a trucker is killed or injured on the job can be complicated. Often, multiple factors contribute to a commercial motor vehicle accident. Further, the variety of employment and contractual arrangements in the transportation industry means that different drivers may have different rights and options. For example, truck drivers who are employees of the shipper or of a commercial trucking company may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, those who are operating their own vehicles as independent contractors will generally have to prove negligence or product liability in order to recover for their losses.
If you are a commercial truck driver who has suffered a serious injury on the job, or your spouse was a truck driver and was killed on the job or died as the result of an occupational illness, an attorney experienced with truck accident cases as well as work injury claims can be your best resource. Both types of cases can be complicated and technical, requiring the use of expert witnesses and knowledge of both state and federal laws. Evidence can be lost or destroyed as time passes, so it is in your best interest to schedule a free consultation right now.