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Why are truck-related deaths on the rise?

Over the last several years the number of truck-related accidents has grown dramatically across the Nation, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries every year. While there are Federal laws in place governing work hours, and rest periods, it has been reported that more and more crashes are occurring because of truckers who were asleep at the wheel. Meanwhile, lobbying groups representing the hauling industry have been pushing back against a wide range of safety regulations not only with respect to work hours and rest periods, but a variety of regulations regarding size and weight limits and safety standards. For many residents of New York, size and weight limits are set by state law, but tractor-trailers pose a serious threat to drivers and passengers on the state’s highways.

The Grim Statistics

While truck-related deaths started to decline during the Great Recession, these tragedies have been on the rise once again more recently. In 2013, for example, 3964 people were killed in over 3500 crashes involving trucks. While the total number of deaths was slightly less in the following year, the total number of accidents and injuries was higher. The statistics for 2015 have yet to become available, however, the number of accidents, injuries and death over the previous 4 years was much higher.

Roadblocks to Safety Regulations 

Due in part to the economic downturn, the profit margins across the hauling industry were squeezed and a number of shippers for forced into bankruptcy. In an effort to recoup their losses, these outfits has pushed Congress to roll back a number of safety regulations, particularly the federal 80,000 pound weight limit (40 tons), and increasing the length of double tractor trailers. Whether lobbyists representing the industry will be successful remains to be seen, but a long-standing threat to trucking safety has been truckers who were asleep at the wheel. In fact, a body of evidence gathered over decades has shown that a common disorder known as sleep apnea is prevalent among truckers. Many truckers are said to be obese, and their airways repeatedly close while they sleep, leaving them exhausted and prone to doze off while driving resulting in catastrophic accidents. Both the  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been raising alarms about this danger and have recommended drivers be examined and treated for the condition, but truckers have also pushed back against these efforts claiming there is no evidence to suggest truckers are more prone to this sleep disorder. In other words, truck-related accidents and the resulting injuries and deaths are likely to continue. That’s the bad news. The good news is that anyone who is injured is a truck accident has powerful legal recourse to file a personal injury lawsuit.