The statistics on semi-truck crashes have recently been released for 2018, and truck-related deaths increased from the previous year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) collects information about truck-related injuries and reported that 4,951 people were killed in crashes with semi-trucks. The total number of deaths for all automobile crashes decreased slightly to 36,560, but the numbers increased for crashes involving a semi-truck. This recent report continues to demonstrate the danger of serious injuries and even death when a semi-truck is involved in an automobile crash.
There is hope that the number of trucking-related deaths and injuries may decrease in the year 2020—a welcome change—due to new regulations that require most trucks to equip electronic log devices (“ELDs”). The electronic devices are intended to provide more accurate records of work hours by semi-truck drivers and, in turn, restrict drivers from driving more hours than permitted by federal laws. The ELDs should reduce fatigued drivers from continuing to drive semi-trucks when tired and beyond the daily restrictions provided under federal regulations.
While the ELD rules should decrease the number of fatigued drivers on the road, there are still exceptions for older semi-trucks, which are often used to haul livestock. The bottom line is that the new ELD rules should increase safety for many trucks carrying cargo, but the new rules do not apply to all semi-trucks. While most drivers exercise heightened caution around semi-trucks, fatigued driving creates risks that often cannot be avoided no matter what level of caution other drivers exercise. The new ELD rules are a good start to improving safety, but there is a long way to go to ensuring that all semi-trucks have adequate electronic devices to fully protect the public.