Could Self-Driving Trucks Make Texas Roads Safer?

Truck driver error was a critical reason for almost all (87 percent) of all tractor-trailer accidents, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If we could improve drivers’ performance of their jobs, we could avoid thousands of tractor-trailer crashes every year.

Or maybe we could just cut out the driver altogether.

Although this may seem like a crazy idea, it is actually a viable solution to a serious problem. And this idea is closer than you may realize.

It was just announced that a Silicon Valley company is working on a self-driving big-rig that might be near completion.

And in an interesting twist, California laws forbid self-driving automobiles, so the vehicles will not likely launch in the state where they are being created. However automated vehicles are legal in Texas.

Trucks without drivers avoid common crash causes

An FMCSA Large Truck Crash Causation Study found that fatigue, distractions, alcohol and speeding are the major causes of tractor-trailer accidents. Many long-haul drivers become distracted by mobile phones, texting, GPS, eating or general boredom on the road. Even the most conscientious driver is prone to physical and mental limitations including illness, medications side effects, vision, sleep apnea and obesity.

During a 2 ½ year study of 78,000 coded accidents involving commercial vehicles, researchers found that

  • Poor decision-making, such as tailgating or speeding, played a part in 38 percent of the accidents.
  • Driver distraction contributed to 28 percent of the tractor-trailer collisions.
  • Trucker’s non-performance, including falling asleep or physical illness, accounted for 12 percent of the crashes.
  • Trucker’s actions, such as overcompensating or panic, was a factor in 9 percent of the collisions.

Could a self-driving truck do better?

You bet! While most truck drivers take their jobs seriously, it just takes one mistake when operating an 18-wheeler to destroy the lives of countless victims who happened to be driving along side or in front of the big truck.

So, even if only a few bad apples text while driving, forgo sleep or take drugs, the results are catastrophic. On the other hand, 100 percent of self-driving trucks don’t get distracted, don’t get too tired and don’t take potentially dangerous medications. They also won’t misjudge the curve in the road or fail to see stalled traffic on a stormy night.

Automated trucks may put many trucking companies out of business. The American Trucking Association estimates that more than 3 million workers drive trucks for a living and that one in 15 Americans have jobs in the trucking industry.

This isn’t likely to change overnight. The technology is not yet ready and is still too expensive to create fleets of self-driving big-rigs. In addition, lawmakers and the general public will need to be convinced that having no driver is much safer than having someone behind the wheel.

At our Fort Worth auto accident law firm, we look forward to the day when trucks keep a safe distance, drive the speed limit and deliver goods safely without risk of driver errors. We’ve been representing Texans injured or the families of those who die at the hands of 18 wheelers and commercial vehicles for over 35 years. Please contact us if you or a loved one has been the victim of one of these giant vehicles.




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