For many of us, the dangers of driving a faulty vehicle and the need for regular maintenance tends to speak for itself. Brakes fail, headlights blow, mufflers get loud. Routine inspections are often the key for catching these faults and allowing us to repair them before they become a danger to us and to others with whom we share the road.
For truck drivers, however, maintenance and inspection records are a whole other animal. While it is against the law for the driver of a typical sedan or hatchback to operate a vehicle that is past its inspection date, truck drivers face that and more. Being unable to operate works against someone whose livelihood depends upon it. At least for most of us, we could still resort to buses or bicycles or other methods of commute. But, when you make your living by transporting goods on large trailers, there generally isn’t a workaround for that.
There are also higher standards and expectations for truck drivers. They have to consider special rules and regulations designated for their work hours, such as only being able to drive for a limited time. Private drivers don’t technically need to worry about how long we drive (as long as we can somehow sustain our energy), although it’s generally not recommended to drive for too long. But, as a truck driver, you can only drive so many hours at a time before you are required by law, and probably by company policy, to pull over for a break. And because truck drivers often require special certification to operate a vehicle, it isn’t often they can simply hand the wheel over to someone else the same way that a private citizen can in a normal vehicle if we get too tired to drive.
Accounting for payloads is also a luxury that we as private citizens do not need to worry about. We have trunks to secure any cargo we might be carrying, such as groceries or supplies for small, do-it-yourself projects. It isn’t very often that a regular vehicle ever has to worry about losing their payload on the road and injuring others in its wake. A good deal of tractor trailers, however, operate with open-air payloads: plywood, raw timber, and other assorted materials. The only thing that separates these materials from becoming a danger to those of us who share the road with these truck drivers is how stable and secure they are on the trailer itself. Imagine a worst-case scenario where your trunk flies open and you lose a whole trip’s worth of groceries. In the immediate wake of that, admittedly, there might be a few startled drivers that would have to maneuver around a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs or rolling apples. However, several large pieces of wood rolling off of a tractor trailer would likely create a greater catastrophe. After all, you could probably dodge or even drive over a gallon of milk with ease. You can’t do that quite as easily with a log rolling down the road toward you.
In the end, it makes perfect sense why truck drivers are held to a higher standard than the typical private citizen. Not only are they accountable for more than just themselves, but also have to answer to the authority of a company for whom they work. Falling asleep at the wheel not only goes against the law or company policy, but also poses a greater imminent danger to others on the road. Because of how much bigger they are than a normal mid-sized vehicle and taking their payload into account, tractor trailers take about 40% longer to come to a stop than other vehicles. In fact, the typical tractor trailer can legally weigh up to about 16 times as much as a typical sedan. It really is no wonder that truck drivers have to adhere to rather strict rules to operate vehicles. Taking up so much of the road in areas where traffic can get quite congested, an untrained operator runs great risk of causing rather catastrophic truck accidents.