An independent, nonprofit group dedicated to safer motor vehicle travel earlier this year relayed to Congress what it sees are major causes of catastrophic truck accidents. But the government and more importantly trucking companies have largely ignored efforts to address them over the years.
Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety was founded 30 years ago and includes safety experts from consumer, medical, transportation, public health and insurance organizations. A shared goal is to make the nation’s roads safer from fatal commercial truck crashes. In June the group’s president, Catherine Chase, testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The focus of her remarks was commercial trucking.
Noting the consistent rise of fatal truck accidents in recent years, she pinpointed the primary reasons for this dangerous spike and reasons why it may continue.
Overweight and Overloaded Commercial Trucks
Overweight trucks were one current cause. Not only do they damage our crumbling infrastructure, big rigs that weigh 80,000 pounds or more take longer to stop than other trucks. The president noted that overloaded tractor-trailers have a greater percentage of serious brake violations than other semis. And she noted the dangers of longer trucks, which can swerve out of their lanes and into adjacent or opposing traffic.
Yet the trucking industry has called for new laws allowing double trailers to increase in length from 28 feet to 33 feet.
The trucking industry is booming, due in large part to online shopping. More consumers buying goods over the internet has led to a heavier demand for trucks and truck drivers. And trucking companies are having a hard time meeting driver shortages.
Inexperienced Truck Drivers
Trucking concerns lobbied the federal government to lower the age of interstate truck drivers from 21 to 18, which will deepen the pool of new truck driver candidates. In response, the federal government instituted a temporary pilot program to allow younger truckers on interstate highways.
Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety highlighted this program as a real danger to the driving public. Drivers under the age of 19 have a high rate of fatal crashes. So putting them in control of an 18-wheeler is especially risky.
The program is currently limited to 18 to 20-year-olds who have experience in driving trucks in the military. But the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering allowing anyone under 21 to drive a commercial truck over state lines. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has warned of the dangers of expanding the pilot program without first evaluating the crash results from the first stage.
Why does the truck industry want to hire younger drivers? More trucks on the road, regardless of who is behind the wheel, are good for business.
Speeding truckers are a menace to other drivers. That’s why Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety in June called for federally mandated speed limiters on commercial trucks, citing statistics that show approximately 1,000 deaths are attributed to speeding commercial trucks per year. Such devices would top big-rig highway speeds at 65 mph or lower.
There were several other causes of fatal commercial truck accidents offered in that Congressional hearing. The one common thread between them all is that they’re largely preventable if only trucking companies took safety more earnestly and more truck drivers acted responsibly.
If you were seriously injured or had a family member die in a crash caused by a commercial truck, speak with an attorney who represents victims of truck accidents about making those responsible answer for their bad acts.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.
Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles July 29, 2019