There are thousands of truck accidents every year in the United States, which often lead to injuries and fatalities, notwithstanding the highly expensive insurance claims and traffic jams which have a knock-on effect on multiple parties.
It is easy to assume that truck drivers are to blame for the accidents they are involved in, but statistics often prove otherwise. Truthfully, truck drivers are involved in significantly fewer accidents than other types of vehicles, but the one unavoidable and devastating fact is the number of fatalities caused by these type of accidents, which upon collision is largely caused by the monstrous size of the vehicles involved.
To give a practical example, there was a major incident involving two trucks. The case was dealt with by Mullen and Mullen; the accident was in Dallas Texas and they were the lawyers, and devastatingly this claimed the life of at least one person, with two other victims being taken to hospital. The real-life nature of these incidents calls for change, and with numerous parties responsible, perhaps it is time for a recall in regulations regarding the way safety is monitored with these large vehicles.
There are several regulatory boards involved in the trucking industry, and The Department of Transportation is the parent agency responsible for tracking critical statistics, which recently outlined some of the main causes of accidents. These include, but aren’t limited to, loss of control of the truck due to a tire blowout, engine failure, vehicles encroaching on the truck’s lane, poor road conditions, vehicles travelling too fast, improper manoeuvring, and driver fatigue.
Research suggests that in 60 percent of truck crashes there was no driver error, and in cases where drivers are at fault, it is often due to fatigue. Another common cause of accidents involves drivers failing to adjust their speed correctly, alongside rollovers caused by drivers falling asleep. More than 100,000 people per year are killed in truck crashes, and the numbers have slowly worsened since 2009, where thriving economies have led to more goods being shipped on highways, ultimately creating more risk.
Though there are multiple statistics to digest, the essential detail is that there are thousands of accidents every year, with the average cost of each fatal crash totalling $3 million or more. With accidents that don’t result in death, total costs can still total between $50,000 - $100,000, a staggering amount which affects the insurance policies of all drivers. Annually, more people are killed in traffic accidents involving trucks than the fatalities caused by commercial airline crashes over the past 45 years, yet often these vital statistics are overlooked.
In recent years, congress has pursued various actions to roll back safety improvements ordered by federal regulators, allowing drivers to work 82 hours a week and suspending a rule which requires drivers to take a 34-hour rest break over two nights to restart their work week. This is likely to have a huge effect on the fatigue of drivers, which as previously mentioned is one of the leading causes of accidents when truck drivers are at fault. Congress has also spoken about lowering the minimum age for drivers of large trucks to 18, which could easily have a knock-on effect on safety due to drivers being less experienced.
These initiatives have been pushed following a period where the death toll in truck-involved crashes rose 17% from 2009 – 2013, and consistent rises are continuously witnessed every year. With crashes not only killing car drivers but truck drivers and passengers too, where do the government and regulatory bodies draw a line?
The trucking industry is vital to the nation’s economic well-being, but at what cost? With lives continuously being lost, it is essential for congress to levy more significance on safety as opposed to cutting costs. Though higher safety standards and shorter work weeks may increase freight costs, this would ultimately be a wise investment in terms of saving money through lower insurance rates and damage claims.
With trucking generating more than $700 billion per year in revenue, a small increase in safety costs wouldn’t put a huge financial strain on carriers, and surely the next step is to pass a comprehensive funding bill to improve highway regulation. This should be coordinated in conjunction with equipping safety regulators with sufficient resources and political support, which would be progress towards reducing the carnage that is currently witnessed on our highways.
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