The economic model of commercial trucking has drivers working long hours and driving for mind-numbingly long stretches at a time - both factors that contribute to all-too-frequent highway crashes. This is part of why long-haul truckers have been ranked as having one of Tennessee's most dangerous jobs. While the job is no doubt dangerous for truck drivers, it is equally or perhaps more dangerous for drivers in Nashville and elsewhere around the state who have to worry about collisions with tired or distracted truck drivers and the personal injuries that can result from such collisions.
Trucker fatigue is a leading cause of trucking accidents. Truck drivers are allowed to work 14 hours straight, including 11 hours of uninterrupted driving, before they are required to pull over for a break. Obviously, this can lead to drivers who are less than alert behind the wheel. In part because of this, truck crashes have taken 31 lives in Tennessee so far in 2011. At this time last year, 51 people had died as a result of truck crashes. Those figures don't reveal how many people in Tennessee were seriously injured by trucking accidents.
The trucking industry has made some safety improvements, like installing alarms that sound when drivers appear to be dozing off. The government is also looking into requiring commercial trucks to have "black boxes" like those used to determine what caused airplane crashes. But the fact remains that an 18-wheeler is far heavier than a regular passenger vehicle, so in a collision, a commercial truck is bound to cause far more damage to the other vehicle than would a car or pickup truck. Safety experts have likened a commercial truck colliding with a passenger vehicle to a car crashing into an aluminum soda can. The trucking industry has a long way to go as far as safety. For now, Nashville drivers would do well to be extra cautious around commercial trucks.