Jill Kolodner | February 23, 2022 | Truck Accidents
Semi trucks are a fixture on highways and city streets, transporting goods across the country. For anyone who’s been in an accident involving a semi, these trucks are less the “gentle giants” of the road than they are menacing monsters.
Aside from their size and value to the country’s supply chain, many people don’t know much about semis. Learning more about semi trucks and the trucking industry may help you understand them better, and even help you avoid an accident on the road.
Here are some facts about semis that may save your life.
1. Where Does the Name “Semi Truck” Come From?
Semi trucks are named faor their capability to haul semi-trailers – trailers that attach to a tractor (the truck cab) and can’t move on their own. Other names include 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, or big rigs.
Depending on the engine’s power, semi trucks can carry one trailer or haul two, one attached behind the other.
2. It’s Much More Difficult to Drive a Semi Truck Than a Car
Tractor-trailer drivers are required to carry a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), which has a higher standard of qualification and training. In addition to having a CDL, they’re also required to go through a specialized training program and pass specific written and driving tests.
If they’re hauling certain kinds of cargo, such as hazardous materials, semi drivers must complete additional tests and training.
The trucks themselves are complicated machines. Fully loaded, a semi truck weighs about 80,000 pounds. Its center of gravity is much higher than a car or SUV, and the sheer weight of the truck gives it more inertia, making stopping suddenly much more challenging (and dangerous).
Truck drivers have to pay close attention to their vehicles every second they’re on the road.
3. There’s a Truck Driver Shortage
Long-haul trucking can pay well, but the turnover for drivers is very high. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, turnover rates in the industry are 90% for commercial truckers and 72% for smaller carriers. The long hours and time away from home are the main reasons drivers leave.
There’s a high probability that many of the truck drivers you pass each day are new to the industry. Plus, with a chronic driver shortage, those who are on the road may have more demanding schedules than they otherwise would.
Altogether, this means that many of the drivers you see are probably tired and stressed out.
4. The Impact of Driver Fatigue
Driver fatigue may be the single most significant contributing factor to semi truck accidents. In 2018, 40% of the 5,250 fatal workplace injuries were transportation-related, with heavy-truck drivers accounting for 831 of those fatalities.
The inherent dangers of truck driving, along with the impact of driver fatigue, make driving semis a dangerous career. Unfortunately, the truck driver isn’t the only one impacted by the danger. If they have an accident, it often affects other drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) developed strict regulations to limit the number of hours truckers can drive each day and impose a mandatory rest period to reduce driver fatigue and make long-haul trucking safer. All drivers must log their driving and resting hours to retain their licensure and certification.
Understanding more about the trucking industry and the people who drive tractor-trailers can help you become a better defensive driver on the road.
Knowing the difficulty semi drivers have stopping suddenly and that they may be exhausted or stressed can help you make better decisions when sharing the road with these giants. You may even avoid an accident.