Truck accidents are a serious public health hazard killing thousands of Americans every year. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, fatal truck accidents hit a record low in 2009. As the economy recovered and Americans hit the road again, these numbers began to climb once more.
Truck driving is a dangerous job: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2015, more than 25 percent of all workplace fatalities in America occurred in the trucking industry.
When truck accidents occur, injury victims – including truck drivers, passengers, occupants of other vehicles, or anyone else in the roadway – have important legal rights. These rights will be complicated and more difficult to enforce with the increase in self-driving vehicles.
How Liability Laws and the Trucking Industry Must Adapt to Self-Driving Vehicles
Self-driving cars have become an increasingly common sight on the roads of Connecticut. These autonomous driving technologies are also expanding to the transportation industry, which is constantly searching for safer, faster, and more efficient methods of transit. But this new technology raises complicated legal questions of liability. Who is legally responsible (“liable”) for an accident caused by a self-driving truck? An accident caused by an autonomous commercial truck could result in liability to the truck manufacturer, the transportation company, the driver who must be present in the vehicle, or all of these parties. Federal transportation guidelines will have to address these issues.
Liability issues also raise the question of a truck driver’s role in this changing industry. As autonomous driving technologies become safer and more proven, the human driver’s role in transportation will be diminished. Some truck drivers embrace this fact: one 47-year veteran of the trucking industry told the MIT Technology Review that “this [autonomous] system often drives better than I do.”
But the trucking industry constitutes 1.7 million truck driving jobs, and not all of these employees are likely to embrace the complete overhaul of their entire industry. Long hours, low pay, and tough working conditions have caused turnover among truck drivers to remain near 100 percent. This means that truck drivers on the roadway are almost always inexperienced. The turnover rate among truck drivers also means that trucking companies do not always thoroughly screen for problem drivers – especially those with a history of trucking and traffic violations. Accidents caused by drivers who are inexperienced or have poor driving histories can also bring liability to the transit companies that hire them. Transportation companies are likely to embrace autonomous technologies which can prevent such liability.
Safety statistics, liability laws, insurance coverage, and other changes are likely to completely overhaul the entire trucking industry in the coming years. Until then, Connecticut drivers must continue to stay alert on the roads, and exercise every safe driving habit they have in their arsenal.
After any truck accident, those who are injured or killed or their survivors should contact an experienced Fairfield County truck accident attorney as soon as possible. Negligent truck drivers and transportation companies must be held accountable in order to make the roads of Connecticut safer for everyone.