Deaths from Tractor Trailer Accidents Reach Highest Level in Almost 30 Years
In a study with data recently reviewed by NHTSA, it was confirmed that the number of fatalities from big truck accidents has risen to the highest level in almost 30 years. Large truck fatalities rose 9% to 4,761. This represents deaths in the 2017 calendar year, an increase of 392 deaths from 2016.
The biggest increase in fatalities occurred in crashes with trucks weighing 10,000 to 14,000 pounds. This trend continues in spite of the overall traffic fatality rate continuing to decline – in fact that same set of data from 2017 crashes shows that there was a 2% decline from 2016 in overall traffic fatalities. These smaller trucks do not require a commercial driver’s license to operate, resulting in an operator with less training driving a vehicle that is still many times larger than the passenger cars around it. Those drivers are also exempt from substance and alcohol testing, reducing the level of protection typically associated with large truck operation.
Further, oftentimes drivers of trucks with gross vehicle weight between 10,000 and 26,000 are exempt from the hours of service regulations or subject to certain exceptions. That regulatory scheme serves to keep fatigued drivers off the roadway. For example, under the non-CDL short-haul exception, a driver can extend the 14-hour driving window to 16 hours on 2 days in a 7 day period.
Causes of Wrecks Involving Truckers and Trucking Companies
Because of the vast difference in size and weight between a semi truck and a passenger vehicle, these crashes are much more destructive and devastating than a collision involving two passenger vehicles. Nationwide, it is estimated that large trucks (known as tractor trailers, semi trucks, eighteen wheelers, diesels, or big rigs) make up about 3% of the vehicles on the road. Truckers and trucking corporations must be vigilant about safety. The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") lists the following as some of the most common causes of big rig accidents:
Poor Driver Training
Driver Fatigue (Tiredness)
Poor Driving Conditions
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Or Drugs
Aggressive, Dangerous or Reckless Driving
Mechanical Failure (or Improper Maintenance)
Defective Parts (Such as Defective Steering Or Brakes)
Truckers and trucking companies must be mindful of each of these trucking accident causes.
Determining The Cause Of A Truck Accident
It may be difficult to determine the cause of a commercial motor vehicle accident. It takes an experienced team of investigators to determine the cause of a trucking accident. An accident reconstructionist will measure and photograph the collision site. They will use these measurements and their engineering knowledge to calculate the speed of the vehicles involved in the collision, the impact forces, and the way the vehicles moved after impact.
The accident reconstructionist can determine if a vehicle was speeding or failed to yield the right-of-way. He or she can also determine if the vehicle could have been slowed or stopped to avoid the collision. A biomechanic expert may examine the occupants of the vehicle to understand and determine how the occupants moved during the crash. A truck driving (or trucking) expert can determine if either the truck driver and/or the trucking company acted improperly or was negligent. The trucking expert will examine the driver logs, gas receipts, schedule, manifest, GPS and onboard data information, and other available information to determine if the truck driver or trucking company violated regulations, industry standards or company standards.