Not having upheld such responsibility has made them liable and hence the payouts in both cases.
Concomitantly with a lack of sleep, company responsibilities regarding the above-mentioned truck maintenance also appear to not always be up to standard, if the facts of the cases are investigated. According to Baker's report, drivers for the company have taken responsibility by reporting truck problems, which were simply ignored by their companies. Further investigation found the truck unroadworthy to an extent where this was at least partly responsible for the crash. In addition, factors beyond the truck drivers' control, such as bad weather and road conditions, can also contribute to accidents. When these are compounded with the problems associated with lack of sleep, crashes are generally more than likely.
Baker (2006) substantiates the above-mentioned 2003 regulation, according to which no driver is allowed more than 11 cumulative hours on the roads, which should be preceded by at least 10 hours of rest. This regulation is however frequently ignored not only by truck drivers themselves, but also by companies who tend to focus on profit rather than employee well-being. Baker also notes that driver fatigue is on of the major problems in road safety, and should therefore be addressed accordingly.
A study conducted by Sabagh-Ehrlich, Friedman & Richter (2005) notes that, although only 6% of drivers on American roads at the time of writing were trucks, they account for as much as 20% of all accidents. The study furthermore focuses specifically on the role that driver fatigue plays in the exacerbation of this problem. According to the study, reports by the California Highway Patrol indicate that fatigue is a cause in as much as 67% of crashes. This appears to be a worldwide phenomenon, with the UK, Finland and Israel also experiencing similar problems: trucks represent a discordant proportion of the vehicle population and the amount of accidents on the roads of nearly all industrial countries.
In addition to a lack of sleep and long work hours, the report cites several other factors that can result in driver fatigue for long haul truck drivers. These include poor working conditions, chronic illness and sleep disorders. This directly affects not only their safety, but also their health, as these drivers show higher rates of absenteeism as a result of illness. Indirectly, as seen above, driver fatigue affects all other road users.
The extent of the problem clearly calls for remedies that target the specific problem areas. Current investigations into the problem mainly focus on a historical basis, with little being done to remedy existing problems. In other words, while accidents are investigated and compensation paid to families, little is done to investigate truck companies and the way in which they operate. There are three levels upon which the issue needs attention if the problem is to be remedied: the professional level entails maintenance and strict driving policies within companies. The personal level entails that truck drivers should take responsibility for their own health and safety, and the political level entails that legislators should carefully consider existing and new legislation in terms of health and safety. Health and safety regulations should also be updated and enforced on a much more consistent basis.
Fatigue is a major safety issue for both truck drivers themselves and for the public in general. Currently the phenomenon also holds significant dangers for truck companies themselves, in terms of profits and loss. Companies who are sued for millions suffer severe losses because they do not enforce regulations, health and safety, or vehicle maintenance. All sectors should work together to ensure greater road safety for all who travel.
Roetting, M., Huang Y.H., McDevitt, J.R. & Melton, J.R. (2004). Truck drivers' attitudes and opinions towards feedback by in-vehicle technology. Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, USA. http://www.psychology.nottingham.ac.uk/IAAPdiv13/ICTTP2004papers2/ITS/Roetting.pdf
Sabbagh-Ehrlich, S., Friedman, L., Richter E.D. (2005). Working conditions and fatigue in professional truck drivers at Israeli ports. Injury Prevention, Vol. 11. http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/11/2/110