Truck Drivers vs. Airline Pilots - A Comparison of Safety

I previously blogged about Road Safe America and their goal of having speed governors on all heavy trucks. (Speed governors are on-board computers that limit a truck’s top speed.) While looking around the Road Safe America website, I discovered an interesting comparison between large truck drivers and commercial airline pilots.

Road Safe America argues that professional truck drivers should be trained more like airline pilots, and they should receive similar amounts of rest time and pay. Many truck drivers are on the road for days at a time, and they are paid by the mile, which encourages unsafe driving. Furthermore, according to the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), truck drivers spend an average of 44 hours per week in their cab not getting paid, while they’re sitting and waiting for loading and unloading.

They only get paid for time when the wheels are moving. Most drivers take home $38,000 to $50,000 a year, and they are away from home many nights out of the month.

Professional truck drivers log 77 driving hours a week, 330 driving hours a month, and 4,000 driving hours a year, compared to professional airline pilots who log 30 flying hours a week, 100 flying hours a month, and 1,000 flying hours a year. Airline pilot hours are tracked digitally, whereas truck drivers keep paper logbooks.

In the last 3 years, there have been less than 100 airline accident deaths. There have been 15,000 trucking accident deaths and between 300,000 and 400,000 injuries.

The federal government has an annual regulatory budget of $14.6 billion for airlines. The regulatory budget for trucking companies is $500 million.

There are 590,000 commercial airline pilots compared to 10 million commercial truck drivers.

Airline pilots must have a physical every 6 months. Truck driver physicals are required every 2 years.

Airline pilots are not allowed to take narcotic drugs. The trucking industry makes an exception for narcotic drug use among drivers.

Airline pilots have an age limit of 65. There is no age limit for truck drivers.

The driver’s of large tractor trailer trucks should have at least as much responsibility for public safety as airline pilots. As Road Safe America points out, people voluntarily buy tickets to board commercial aircraft, but everybody shares public roadways.

Approximately 5,000 Americans are killed in large truck accidents each year. That’s the equivalent of 2 airliner crashes each month.

Tractor trailer trucks that weigh up to 80,000 pounds are lethal weapons when an unfit driver is behind the wheel. An average-size car would need to travel at 300+ miles per hour to achieve the same force as a loaded tractor trailer truck traveling at 60 miles per hour.

Large trucks are involved in 11 to 13 percent of all traffic accident fatalities, yet the make up only 3 percent of the vehicles on the road.

Be extra careful when approaching large trucks on the highway. Large trucks have large blind spots, and the drivers may not be able to see you. Always keep a safe distance between your vehicle and large trucks.

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced attorney.

I’ll close out this post with a video from Steve Owings, co-founder of Road Safe America, about the truck accident that killed his son, Cullum Owings, of Atlanta: