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Professional drivers are not immune to distractions

On Behalf of | Nov 12, 2021 | Personal Injury

Society holds commercial truck drivers to a higher standard than those behind the wheel of smaller passenger vehicles. Not only are truck drivers required to complete lengthy, advanced training courses but many long-haul drivers often log 100,000 miles or more each year. With all this practice and training, it makes sense that professional truck drivers might find it easier to avoid common distractions, right?

Unfortunately, not.

With so many hours per day logged behind the steering wheel of an 18-wheeler, many truck drivers fight to stave off boredom. This can mean something as simple as listening to the radio or as complex as eating an entire meal without stopping. It is crucial to remember, however, that an activity that pulls any level of focus or attention from the primary task can be considered a distraction.

What are common distractions?

Netradyne, an artificial intelligence-driven fleet safety management platform, notes the five most common types of truck driver distractions:

  • Drinking liquids: This can include taking a drink from a travel mug full of coffee or a sip of soda from a fast-food restaurant lunch meal.
  • Watching events outside the vehicle: Whether it is looking at a roadside construction project, reading a clever billboard or looking at passing traffic, truckers can become distracted by outside-the-cab events.
  • Looking at a GPS device: Traveling to a new location or through a complex highway interchange often requires the aid of a GPS navigation unit. Unfortunately, looking away from the road to make sense of the driving instructions can be a serious distraction.
  • Adjusting in-vehicle audio: This can mean finding a new radio station, selecting an mp3 playlist or finding a new podcast to listen to on an electronic device.
  • Manipulating vehicle controls: From temperature controls to in-dash fan settings, a driver can become distracted by manipulating the dozens of control surfaces in a cab.

Driving distractions come in many forms. In general, safety experts note that distractions can fall into three categories: visual distractions, manual distractions and cognitive distractions. While the experts have clearly defined these categories, many activities overlap. Activities such as texting can force a driver to take their hands off the steering wheel, look away from the road down to the phone screen and think more about the conversation than their driving environment.

Due to their size and speed, collisions involving 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks are often characterized by devastating force. Drivers of smaller passenger vehicles can suffer broken bones, amputation, head trauma and paralysis. In severe instances, the collision might result in fatalities.