Accidents occur daily in the United States, but when it comes to the number of car crashes caused by semi-trucks specifically, the answer can surprise you. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the numbers are increasing annually. In fact, 2017 saw a 9 percent increase in the number of large truck accidents, which totaled 4,889 that year. These large vehicle accidents also led to an increase in injuries, averaging 116,000 injuries in that year alone.
The number of semi-trucks involved in fatal accidents also increased in 2017 by 10 percent, making it 4,657 fatal accidents in total.
To help put it in perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that there were 37,133 fatalities in crashes total for the year (including accidents not involving semi-trucks), and that was a total of 6,452,000 accidents for 2017.
The numbers alone are staggering, especially because just over 7 percent of accidents each year involve semi-trucks. An accident with a semi-truck, when you consider their size and weight, is catastrophic. These result in serious injuries and, often, fatalities for those in smaller vehicles. More so, semi-truck accidents are often preventable and caused by negligence.
Why Truck Accidents Happen so Frequently
Semi-truck incidents occur yearly for various reasons. When you consider the weight of the vehicle and the speed it is traveling, you can see how these can result in fatal accidents. Just some of the reasons semi-truck accidents are common (and even on the rise) include:
Driver Fatigue – Falling Asleep at the Wheel
One primary cause of semi-truck accidents in the United States comes from driver fatigue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that drowsy driving is a serious concern in the United States, and it often results in tragic accidents. In one estimate, 1 out of 25 adult drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past month. One common risk group is commercial drivers, especially those driving semi-trucks, tow trucks, and tractor-trailers.
Federal regulations do exist that are meant to stop drowsy driving from occurring in the industry. However, due to the demands of today’s consumer, with products needing to arrive faster than the competition, companies will ignore those federal regulations and push their drivers to work past the federal guideline limitations.
Federal guidelines do limit how many hours per day and how many hours in the same week a commercial driver can stay on the road before having a mandated break. Despite these regulations, including fines to employers and drivers for ignoring the guidelines, fatigued driving is one of the leading causes of semi-truck accidents.
Improper Maintenance of Fleets
Whether the driver owns the semi-truck themselves and contracts out or the truck is owned by a freight company, another common cause of these incidents is lack of maintenance. Semi-trucks put thousands of miles on the odometer each month, which means they require frequent inspections and maintenance to remain safe.
Federal regulations require that these trucks are kept in good condition. Under the FMCSA Section 396.3, commercial vehicles must receive scheduled, regular maintenance from their owners, and receive inspections and repairs promptly. Records of maintenance are required to be kept by the owners of the semi-trucks.
Despite these regulations, many companies will skimp on inspections or even put off much-needed repairs to push another run – which puts everyone on the road with that semi-truck in serious risk.
Distracted driving is not just an issue plaguing passenger vehicles. The FMCSA has published rules and guidelines for how hand-held mobile devices are used while operating a commercial vehicle. The FMCSA conducted interior research and found that commercial drivers are 23.2 times more likely to cause an accident while texting and driving than the average person driving a passenger vehicle.
Commercial drivers who are found texting and driving will not only be disqualified from commercial operations, but the driver and employer could receive fines ranging from $2,750 to $11,000 per offense.
Despite the regulations, numerous incidents occur each year where the semi-truck driver was either talking, texting, or even interacting with their radio at the time of the crash.
The commercial trucking industry is in serious demand for qualified drivers, and unfortunately, there are limited applicants. Therefore, some companies, to save money and find more drivers, will take less qualified drivers to fill their spots. Driving a commercial vehicle is not the same as a passenger vehicle. It requires extensive training and numerous hours under supervision. And even those who have passed the tests and have the necessary licensing can be too inexperienced for specific road conditions or for carrying various types of loads.
Improper Load Balance
Semi-trucks carry hefty loads, and the loads inside the trailer must be balanced perfectly; otherwise, that uneven distribution of weight can lead to a rollover. Also, an overloaded trailer could make it difficult for a semi-truck to stop properly, which increases the chances of a rear-end collision.
Understanding Your Rights as a Victim of a Semi-Truck Accident
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in an accident with a semi-truck, regardless of the cause, you should consult with an accident attorney. Accidents involving vehicles of this magnitude are severe, and victims often have long-term injuries, extensive medical costs, and unimaginable losses to deal with. When you did not cause the accident, why should you shoulder the financial burden?
Instead, let the attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, PLLC, help you with your case. Our team understands how complicated these cases can be, and we have helped families just like yours seek compensation from drivers and their employers to cover medical costs, lost wages, and the long-term expenses associated with their injuries.
You can schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with our team by calling 206-488-1611. There is no risk to meet with our attorneys, and you do not pay our team unless we get compensation for your case.
We handle all various injury claims involving semi-trucks, including brain injuries, wrongful death, and permanent disability. Contact us online to learn more about our full range of legal services.