Hazards and Solutions in the Trucking Industry in the U.S.
Trucking industry hazards and risk management strategies.
The trucking industry, undoubtedly, is the backbone of the US economy. This industry flourishes due to the blood and sweat of labourers and employees. Did you know that there are more fatalities in the trucking industry than in any other industry? In the United States alone, trucking injuries were on the rise from 2003-2007, but the condition has improved greatly by some serious steps taken by the United States government.
There are many risks associated with the trucking industry, but the potential for those risks to become accidents or fatalities is minimized significantly by better administration and law enforcement in U.S. Following are some main hazards and examples of some ways that they have been mitigated.
Road Accidents While Travelling Interstate or Intrastate
The most prominent hazard associated with truckers is a vehicle collision. A vehicle with a gross weight of greater than 10,000 pounds is classified as a truck. In the U.S. in 2012, 756 truck drivers lost their lives in work related accidents and more than 65,000 private sector truck drivers were injured in road incidents. Most of the fatalities that occurred on the roads were due to collisions between two or more vehicles, or with an object along the road. Truck drivers are, typically, experienced and certified professionals. For this reason, these types of road accidents cannot, usually, be attributed to a lack of experience or clumsiness of drivers. The most prominent reason behind such incidents is the mental and physical discomfort of the truck driver. In most of the disastrous accidents, the reason for the accident appears to be, dizziness or sleepiness of the driver.
How Has This Hazard Been Mitigated?
The U.S. Department of Transportation (D.O.T) has established some rules to minimize fatal truck accidents. Regulations surrounding the working hours for drivers have been imposed by the D.O.T on truck drivers and no driver is allowed to drive more than that limit. According to regulations:
- A driver may drive up to a maximum of 11 hours after an off duty period of at least 10 successive hours
- The driving period of a driver cannot exceed 14 hours after an off duty period of at least 10 successive hours
- A driver is not allowed to drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 sequential days
- After taking rest for 34 or more successive hours, a driver may start a 7/8 consecutive day period
Along with these impositions on drivers, vehicle condition is also ensured by the authorities to declare it suitable for travelling on the roads for transportation of goods. A new rule has been proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCA) recently termed as Safety Fitness determination. Vehicles are now tested for fitness in an advanced way according to that specific rule.
Hazards Linked with the Loading and Unloading of a Vehicle
Most often, the truck driver or labourer with the truck is responsible for loading and unloading the vehicle. Workers involved in the loading or unloading of suspension type highway trailers are at a significantly increased risk. The risk to the worker is higher because damaged/old trailers are incapable of bearing the load of powered industrial trucks used to load or unload the trailer. There have been a lot of cases in the trucking industry in which a worker is crushed by an overturned or fallen forklift from a loading dock.
The first and most logical solution that comes to mind is the training and experience of workers and labourers involved in loading/unloading activities. Ensuring that the trailer has the capability to bear the load of powered industrial trucks is also mandatory. Rules and regulations regarding the operators of machinery have been imposed by the Occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA) department of United States. According to OSHA:
- Powered industrial trucks should meet OSHA standards
- Forklift and other machinery operators should be trained properly
OSHA has jurisdiction over highway loading and unloading across the country, including airport terminals unless they have FAA’s awarded safety plan that obstructs OSHA jurisdiction over that. So, individuals or agencies are held responsible in the case of any incident or accident. For this reason, the health and safety of workers has improved greatly.
Transportation of Hazardous Material
The transportation of chemical or hazardous material in itself is a big risk in the trucking industry. A little negligence from one individual can cause catastrophic damage to hundreds and/or thousands of lives. So, knowledge about the material and potentially reactive materials is mandatory for truck drivers. Varieties of hazards related to the transport of dangerous material include flammability, corrosiveness, toxicity and reactivity. A mild collision involving any vehicle containing toxic substances can cause an immediate fire. For this reason, extreme care is necessary in transportation of hazardous materials.
Many government and private organizations have discussed the issue and numerous hazardous material transportation codes have been developed. These codes are being followed throughout the country. Some of the codes developed for chemical industries include:
- Responsible Care Distribution Code (CMA 1999), developed by the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA)
- Responsible Distribution Process (NACD 1999), developed by the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD)
By adopting some or all of these approaches to transportation safety, risks in the transportation industry are mitigated.