The last three months of the year are a busy time for truck drivers. The fall harvest means trucks loading up on produce, immediately followed by the holiday rush where millions and millions of gifts are transported by truck. While it’s clear trucking activity is greater toward the holiday season, why does that mean more crashes? Let’s find out.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), there’s an average of 35 traffic fatalities per day in the U.S.. However, that number increases by 30% (45 fatalities) per day in November and December. While there are a lot of contributing factors, it’s important to understand how truckers are at a greater risk.
The trucking industry has a huge driver shortage and it’s getting bigger every month. That means more truckers working closer to their daily 11-hour limit. Those long hours might be okay once and a while, but they take their toll over weeks and months, making drivers feel burnt out and increasing the odds that they fall asleep at the wheel.
Simply put, the combined stress and long hours of the holiday season mean a greater chance of truck drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
The second issue is loose cargo, particularly for produce trucks. As trucks haul off corn, beans, and fruit it’s not uncommon for loose items to fall off the truck and hit another driver’s windshield, potentially leading them to panic, lose control and cause a crash.
Winter weather is another huge obstacle for trucks. Semi-trucks are much more difficult to control and have a greater risk of hydroplaning, jackknifing, and experiencing other issues caused by poor braking technique. Each year, more than 11,500 Americans are injured in weather-related truck crashes.
While truck accidents increase around this time of year, it’s important to recognize that a part of it is simply because there are more trucks on the road as well as more inexperienced truck drivers hired for the holiday season.
Next time you find yourself near a truck, remember to increase your following distance, make sure they can see you, and stay safe.
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