Semi-trucks are an integral part of the economic growth and stability in the United States, but as more and more trucks enter the roadways, so does the likelihood of serious auto accidents. Long haul and semi-truck drivers help transport goods from one side of the country to the other and there is no argument that we need them. However, with the increase in semi-trucks on the roads, the risks of catastrophic collisions increases significantly.

2018 – Semi-Truck Accidents Increase While All Other Crash Fatalities Decrease

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 4951 people killed in collisions involving large trucks in 2018, which was a 1% increase from the previous year. There were approximately 151,000 injuries due to collisions involving semi-trucks, and roughly 531,000 large trucks were involved in police-reported collisions in 2018. Of the deaths involving semi-trucks, 71% were occupants of another vehicle and 11% of the deaths were of individuals considered pedestrians (cyclists or other pedestrians).

Some Causes of Large Truck Collisions

While it’s not easy to always pinpoint the reason for a collision – especially when it involves a large truck – there are some additional risk factors that these vehicles have which have the potential to cause an increase in accidents, and ultimately in the severity of the accident.

  • Driver fatigue is a valid concern for long haul drivers. Whether it is due to a tight schedule, many hours driving on a monotonous highway, getting poor or inadequate amounts of sleep while on the road, or not following the guidelines for hours of service restrictions – a drowsy driver is a dangerous driver. Drivers are limited to 11 hours of time on the road per day, and no more than 77 hours in a week; however, many drivers report it is common to dismiss these limits, easily leading to fatigue.
  • Distractions while driving is as dangerous for drivers of large trucks as it is for all other drivers. While there are strict restrictions on cell phone and texting use for truck drivers, they’re not always followed. Additionally, other distractions such as eating or drinking, fiddling with a navigation system, being distracted by a pet, or having a conversation can all cause collisions when the long haul driver fails to pay proper attention to the road they’re driving on.
  • Speeding adds risks to any vehicle – but with large trucks, that risk is compounded with the size of the vehicle and the extremely long stopping distance, creating a potential for disaster. Going too fast on an incline or around a curve can also cause a semi-truck driver to lose control of their vehicle and cause a collision. A fully loaded truck traveling at highway speeds, with good road conditions, requires the equivalent of over two full football fields to be able to stop their vehicle.
  • Blind spots on semi-trucks are significant – and located on all four sides. If a semi driver isn’t paying adequate attention to be able to account for these blind spots, they may collide with a smaller vehicle.
  • Inadequate maintenance on semi-trucks can cause the trucks to not work properly. Truck drivers need to inspect and maintain their vehicle before, during, and after each trip. This includes checking lights, blinkers, mirrors, wipers, fluid levels, and tires. Not properly maintaining the truck can cause malfunctions, which can lead to collisions.

Does This Trailer Make My Truck Look Big?

When it comes to auto collisions, size matters. If two passenger vehicles collide because one was following too closely behind the other car, it ends up being little more than a fender bender. When a large truck is involved in that same scenario, the risk for severe injuries and death increase significantly. On average, semi trucks are 20-30 times larger than passenger vehicles. Add in the factor of speed, and the force of impact is enough to cause catastrophic injuries. The large size and weight of semi trucks also impact their danger on the road – they tend to accelerate slowly, especially on an incline, take longer to brake, and in general have more difficult maneuverability than a passenger vehicle does. Additionally, due to their weight and size, large trucks can quickly gain speed going down a hill, which can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Are There Federal Rules for Trucks?

Trucking companies and the individuals they hire to drive their trucks are required to follow federal and state rules and regulations for safety, including hours on the job, safety inspections and maintenance, and specialized driver training. If trucking companies fail to follow these regulations, or do not require their drivers to follow them, they can be held liable for the damages that occur when their truck is involved in a collision.

If you or your loved one has been involved in an auto accident with a semi-truck, you’re well aware of the catastrophic injuries and damages that can come as a result. If you feel the long haul driver caused the accident due to negligence, it is important to hold them responsible for their actions. Not only do you have a legal right to receive compensation for the damages you incurred from the accident, but holding the company accountable for their negligence can keep the same thing from happening to someone else. Contact an experienced local semi-truck accident attorney today to find what your legal options may involve. Ritchie Reiersen Law has extensive knowledge and experience handling cases involving car versus semi-truck accidents, and will stand up for your rights and help you receive the compensation you deserve.