Marsh: Most Truck Crashes From Drivers Being Sleepy or Distracted

Fatal hard braking

On Friday, April 22, a single-vehicle accident took the life of this truck driver when he slammed on the brakes and his load shifted forward in Angola, Indiana.


“We have seen some nuclear verdicts, large liability claim settlements, many of them coming from the vantage that the driver was fatigued.” Richard Bleser,  Marsh Risk Consulting.

“Sometimes, I work . . . until 10 or 11 at night. Then I have to get up at 2 AM for trucking.”  Steel hauler

The DOT wants all truck drivers to be tested for apnea, a sleep disorder which can affect safety, if untreated. On March 8th, 2016 the FMCSA, along with the FRA, opened a ninety day period for public comments on its advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) for sleep apnea.

Nuclear Verdicts

A nuclear verdict has been defined as a verdict in excess of $10 million, or perhaps less than $10 million, but still high considering the injuries and damages. The majority of the recent nuclear verdicts, involve not only driving while fatigued, but some form of distracted driving according to Marsh.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off your primary task: driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Distractions are classified into the types: visual, manual, and cognitive.

distractionsThe CDC cites studies showing some type of distraction is present during 52% of normal driving, be it engaging in a conversation, talking on a hands-free cell phone, eating, or even simply daydreaming.

Distraction was present in 68% of crashes that involved injury or property damage, according to one study. CDC

The highest-risk driver by age, most likely to be involved in a fatal collision due to distracted driving, are between ages 20 to 29, followed by those between the ages of 30 to 39 says the CDC.

What Smart Companies Do

Safety experts agree the best way to avoid liability or potential nuclear verdicts is to not have the collision in the first place. As the nature of the risk is changing, so must organizational efforts to mitigate or even eliminate the risk.

Tip: Space + Focus = Collision-free Driving  Marsh

• Smart companies start with a comprehensive Distracted Driving Policy: Avoid driving when distracted, including, but not limited to, when eating, drinking, smoking, or emotional /stressful conversations. A formal policy serves as the foundation of your distracted driving prevention program.

Fact: Most people (86% according to a survey by Coalfire) use their smartphone for both personal use and work. Your Distracted Driving Policy should limit, and preferably eliminate, both uses while driving. In many jurisdictions cell phone/smart phone use while driving is already illegal. And doing illegal things while driving is never helpful . . .

• Train everybody (drivers, managers, and staff) on your Distracted Driving Policy. Once is not enough. Reinforce training with emails, newsletters, bulletin boards, and notices in vehicles to communicate your policy.  Update your Disciplinary Action Policy in the Employee Handbook.

• Hold management and staff accountable. Enforce the policy. Monitor and review your efforts. Use new technology to augment your safety efforts. Set the example.

• Have a fatigue management program. Fatigue Management Programs (FMPs) are interventions intended to assist in reducing driver fatigue. New technology can help here.

Thank you for reading this.