The trucking industry is a major employer globally with more than 7.5 million people working in transportation including around 3.6 million professional drivers in the US. However, a commercial driver’s job is fraught with hazards and dangers. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), over 160,000 truck accidents occur every year in the US alone of which 32% result in an injury and about 3% in a fatality. These numbers point to the urgent need to improve safety measures, standards, and regulations in the commercial trucking industry.
Technical Safety and Equipment Failure
Tragic accidents that occurred worldwide claiming lives and costing millions in injuries were often a result of poor maintenance and the deplorable state of the vehicles. For example, obsolete vehicle fleets require special attention to make sure that they are road worthy. In Africa where the situation is common, the average age of a Senegalese vehicle fleet is 18 years while in the US, the average age of a commercial truck in 14.2 years. Unfortunately, older trucks need more maintenance compared to newer vehicles because they are prone to mechanical failures and may lack modern safety features.
In choosing replacement units, there are several considerations to include such as mechanical reliability, safety features, fuel efficiency, crash worthiness, technology integration, and driver comfort. While regular maintenance can extend the operational life of commercial trucks and mitigate some of the risks associated with aging, it is vital to balance the financial considerations of keeping older trucks in service with the potential safety and operational benefits of newer truck models. The results of a study on the maintenance of heavy trucks suggest that an ‘efficient maintenance infrastructure’ facilitates active participation of drivers in keeping vehicles roadworthy. It also helps develop new competencies such as repairing minor failures and knowledge accumulation of ‘modern operation maintenance.’
Driver Error and Training
A study undertaken by the FMSCA revealed that driver error is ten times more likely to be the cause of a crash whether the driver fell asleep, was physically impaired, inattentive, or made bad judgement calls due to speed and the condition of other motorists. Thus, it makes sense to emphasize driver training to reduce the number of incidents on the road. On top of the growing frequency of truck crashes and collisions, it is also expected that there will be more road users in the future. Global road freight transport is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in 2027 per Road Freight Transport Global Market Report 2023. Hence, license requirements, classroom instruction, and practical experience are areas that must be improved.
The Occupational and Safety Hazards (OSHA) recommends specific guidelines to enhance traffic safety performance and decrease crashes such as the promotion of safety culture by management, setting clear and enforceable traffic policies, and crash reporting/investigations. Periodic training of all drivers regardless of experience levels helps remind them of safe driving practices and skills while motor vehicle record (MVR) checks assist in maintaining a good driving record by defining the number of violations and prescribing appropriate training if in danger of losing privileges. A disciplinary action system may also be instituted to penalize drivers who accumulate violations or preventable crashes.
Professional road safety aims to protect both drivers and other road users through reducing driver errors and traffic violations. Continuous training, safety policies, and vehicle maintenance are factors that can also enhance the security and wellbeing of traffic participants.