According to the most recent finalized data provided by the federal government, 5,005 people died in crashes with commercial trucks in 2019. The federal government also has provided tips to semi-truck drivers for driving safely in hopes of preventing future fatal commercial truck accidents.
The number of people killed in trucking accidents is on an upward trend over the last 10 years. In 2009, 3,380 people died in truck wrecks, according to federal data. The 2019 reporting, then, shows a 48% spike in truck accident deaths in 10 years.
And the overwhelming majority of those people who died were in vehicles other than the trucks. In 2019, 71% of those who died in commercial truck crashes were drivers and passengers in other vehicles.
That’s one reason why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – the federal agency that oversees commercial trucking in this country –published a set of safety trips online for commercial truckers as part of its “Our Roads, Our Safety” campaign.
Inattentive Truck Drivers
The first tip is that truck drivers stay focused on the road ahead, about a quarter-mile on highways, to anticipate changing conditions. Unexpected traffic slowdowns or stoppages can be catastrophic for inattentive truck drivers.
Going 65 mph, fully loaded tractor-trailers take almost the length of two football fields to come to a stop. They can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds – far more than any passenger vehicle – so any time a big rig slams into stopped traffic a deadly multi-vehicle accident can result.
Avoiding driving distracted is also on FMCSA’s list of safe driving tips for commercial truckers.
FMCSA reports that distracted truck drivers are 23 times more likely to crash, swerve or narrowly avoid a crash. It also notes that commercial truck drivers texting on their phones take their eyes off the road for nearly five seconds. In that time a truck going 55 mph will travel the length of a football field with a distracted trucker behind the wheel.
Dangerously Fatigued Over-the-Road Truckers
FMCSA also urges commercial truckers to “stay sharp,” recommending they get plenty of rest before driving, as fatigued truck drivers are documented causes of fatal truck accidents. This recommendation is reinforced by federal Hours of Service rules that limit the number of hours per day and per week truckers can drive.
Commercial truck drivers should be especially cautious in work zones, according to FMCSA’s safety tips, as a disproportionate share of commercial trucks are involved in fatal work zone crashes.
FMCSA recommends that truckers always travel the appropriate speed according to weather, traffic or road conditions. Truck drivers speeding into a curve, for example, may cause serious roll-over crashes that endanger other drivers.
Defective Truck Brakes
The one FMCSA safety trip that does not involve driving is proper maintenance. Poorly maintained tractor-trailers, especially those with defective brakes, can be extremely dangerous.
That’s one reason the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance holds its annual “Brake Safety Week” – seven days of random roadside inspections of truck brakes and hoses. This year’s was held the third week of August and the results haven’t been announced yet.
But last year more than 4,500 commercial trucks were given citations for dangerous brakes. The violations were serious enough that the trucks were allowed back on the road only after the required repairs were completed.
Negligent truck drivers and negligently maintained commercial trucks are dangerous. If you were severely injured or had a family member die in a crash involving a commercial truck, contact a personal injury lawyer experienced in investigating the causes of catastrophic trucking accidents.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.
Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles September 20, 2021