Anyone who has driven across Texas knows what is meant by “long drives.” It doesn’t matter if you’ve driven through from north to south, east to west or on a diagonal, our great state has some girth!
“Easy!” you may say, “Pedal to the metal; it’s better to get there than to waste time!”
Well, okay. Let’s make a drive across Texas!
Firstly, for the purposes of our blog here, let’s say that you’re a seasoned veteran at marathon family vacations or at driving rental trucks and helping your friends move cross-country. Next, let’s round the mileage from the Louisiana state line to the edge of New Mexico to about 600 miles, and the drive time to 12 hours from start to finish. That allows us plenty of time to make stops for fueling up or grabbing coffee and beef jerky (or whatever keeps you awake and attentive on the road). With a decent night’s sleep in between trips, how many back-to-back drives could you make?
Could you do it four times in seven days? Could you drive across Texas four times in seven days and mentally be engaged enough do it safely? By saying “safely” we mean you wouldn’t experience even 2 short seconds of mind-wandering or dozing off during any one of the four drives. This is exactly the kind of schedule tractor-trailer drivers keep week after week (or worse). Is it any wonder that more than 300 fatalities were caused by trucking accidents in Texas in 2009? Two seconds allows plenty of time for a serious accident to happen.
In 2003, a sleep study by the University of Pennsylvania tested sleep-deprived subjects with a psychomotor vigilance task (P.V.T.). The study found that even the least sleep-deprived subjects — those who got a solid 6 hours of sleep per night as opposed to 8 hours — could not keep their full attention on the 10-minute computer tests they were given throughout the day. And, their attention spans got progressively worse with each day of sleep deprivation. Some of the subjects even began falling asleep at the computer! We don’t need to spell out how this correlates to drivers.
Hours of service regulations are a controversial issue between lawmakers and the trucking industry. Yet, the highway safety organization Road Safe America makes an interesting point. No one questions the strict hours of service regulations that must be met by airline pilots. During a single trip along I-20 in Ector County, a truck driver encounters more people than a pilot carries on a single flight! Yet, airline pilots are limited to 30 hours of flight time per week; as opposed to 60 hours of drive time per week for truckers. Plus, by law, a pilot’s flight time activity is tracked by a tamper-proof black box recorder inside the cockpit. By law, a truck driver’s drive time activity is tracked by the driver, in a handwritten log book (which obviously isn’t tamper-proof).
It’s a shame that lawmakers don’t present us with all the facts about issues like this. We can demand tougher regulatory laws when we know what’s at stake.
In the meantime, anyone who’s been involved in a truck crash has to hire a lawyer in order to be treated fairly by the insurance company. A knowledgeable trucking accident lawyer brings to the table experts in sleep studies, accident statistics, driver habits and more when a case goes before a jury. And because the insurance company knows that trucking accident lawyers have access to this knowledge, they are very likely to settle a case outside of court. When an accident victim tries to settle without a lawyer, the insurance company knows they have the upper hand, and may even delay the case until the statute of limitation runs out and it can no longer be tried in court.