Earlier this month, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) released a white paper hoping to set the record straight on driver fatigue and the role it plays in large truck crashes. A common belief is that 30-40% of all truck crashes are caused by driver fatigue. This is definitely important to trucking companies in California and beyond, since it’s part of the ongoing debate about establishing national truck safety priorities and acceptable Federal hours of service limits. In its paper, the ATA argued that the 30-40% isn’t accurate.
The ATA stated that the 30-40% comes from a 1990 study by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The ATA claims that the study looked at factors affecting driver fatigue, not at how many accidents were actually caused by fatigue. The ATA also noted that the crashes weren’t randomly sampled and didn’t represent all truck crashes. Instead, most of the crashes were single-vehicle crashes, mostly occurring at night, which are more likely to be the result of driver fatigue. The crashes were also limited to those that were fatal-to-the-driver, which are only 16.8% of all fatal truck crashes. The ATA also noted that many of the drivers identified in the study as being fatigued were also impaired by drugs or alcohol. The ATA also stated that the majority of accidents where fatigue was deemed to be the probable cause also had other probable causes.
The NTSB actually warned against using the results of the study as generalizations to either all fatal truck accidents or all truck accidents. Unfortunately, it seems like this is exactly what happened. A search of the web will most likely pull up the “fact” that 30-40% of all truck driver accidents are caused by driver fatigue.
There’s no doubt that action should be taken to assure that our roads and highways are safe. It’s important that all drivers should be alert and focused. California trucking companies are already subjected to numerous laws to help keep the roads safe. What the ATA is advocating for, out of fairness to trucking companies in California and beyond, is that lawmakers should have accurate data in front of them before implementing laws that send rippling effects throughout the industry.