Drivers in Arizona may be concerned about an escalating risk of truck crashes if the rules that limit the number of hours truckers can remain behind the wheel are relaxed. Under current law, truck drivers can operate their vehicles for only 11 hours of each 14-hour shift. They also must spend 10 hours off duty before returning to their next shift. However, the Department of Transportation appears to be responding to demands by the trucking industry to increase the hours-of-service limits.
In an effort to reduce speed-related truck accidents, law enforcement officers in Arizona and across the United States will soon participate in Operation Safe Driver Week, which is sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The annual event, which is slated for July 14-20 this year, will target drivers of commercial and passenger vehicles who are speeding or committing other types of traffic violations.
Truck driver fatigue can pose a serious threat to others on Arizona roadways. Because of the size and mass of semi-trucks, other drivers, passengers, cyclists ,and pedestrians are at much greater risk of catastrophic injuries or fatalities in case of a collision. Many factors can escalate the risk of a crash, including distracted driving or intoxication. However, the nature of the trucking industry makes drowsy driving particularly likely. Truckers drive for many hours at a time, often in the dark, over long stretches of monotonous highways.
From 2015 to 2017, the number of large truck occupant fatalities increased each year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Furthermore, the number of fatalities and fatal accidents increased during this time period. However, the FMCSA acknowledged that crashes in Arizona and elsewhere generally have many factors. Therefore, the truckers were not singled out as the sole reason why this increase has taken place. This doesn't mean that there aren't steps that truckers can take to keep themselves safe.
Citing federal data on large truck crash deaths, the highway safety group Road Safe America is once again calling for truck fleet owners to use speed limiters. Truckers in Arizona should know that 35,882 individuals died in large truck crashes between 2009 and 2017 (the latest year for which there is data).
Arizona motorists may have more reasons to be concerned about serious truck accidents. Statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) indicate that certain kinds of large truck accidents are on the rise, and the consequences can be particularly dangerous for other drivers and passengers on the roads. The size and weight of large trucks often mean that an impact is devastating for smaller motor vehicles and pedestrians.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance ran an inspection spree as part of its Brake Safety Week in September, inspecting 35,080 vehicles in Arizona and other states as well as in Canada. The inspections were conducted on commercial vehicles, and brake violations requiring removal from service were found in 14.1 percent of them. According to the CVSA, 4,955 vehicles were placed out of service during Brake Safety Week 2018.
When truck drivers get behind the wheel in Arizona, they could be at risk for fatigue and other forms of distraction. While these apply to all drivers of different types of vehicles, the consequences can be particularly devastating when large trucks are involved. Fatigued drivers can cause serious crashes, and people in other vehicles or pedestrians are at a much higher risk of injury or death when involved in a collision with a semi-truck.
Some Arizona truck drivers might be operating vehicles that have artificial intelligence-based analytics and a camera installed on the vehicle. According to the owner of the company that supplies the technology, even though truck drivers usually do not like this kind of surveillance, the feedback on this has been positive.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) routinely performs roadside inspections on trucks and other large vehicles as they go through Arizona and other states. The most recent round of inspections resulted in more than 10,000 trucks and buses being taken out of service by inspectors because of various violations. During the multi-day spree, nearly 70,000 roadside inspections were conducted. The results personally affected more than 2,500 vehicle drivers. However, this equals less than 2 percent of the total drivers.