The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s most recent statistics from 2017 reveal the following about accidents involving large trucks:
- In 2017, the number of large trucks and buses that were involved in fatal crashes increased by 9% from 2016.
- The number of fatal crashes involving large trucks has increased by 42% since 2009.
- Between 2016 and 2017, fatalities involving large trucks and buses per 100 million vehicles increased by 6.8%.
- In the year 2017, 13 intercity buses and 73 school buses were involved in fatal crashes.
- Between 2016 and 2017, the number of dangerous crashes involving large trucks rose by 5% from 102,000 to 107,000.
- There were 363,000 incidents of property damage involving large buses in 2017.
- There were 232 fatal crashes involving buses in 2017.
Large Commercial Truck Drivers are Required to Carry Insurance
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires large trucks that travel between states to carry a set amount of insurance. Commercial vehicles must purchase commercial liability insurance that covers property damage and bodily injury.
The minimum amount of insurance commercial truck drivers must carry depends on the type of freight they carry. If the industrial truck is carrying non-hazardous cargo and the truck weighs less than 10,001 pounds, the company must carry at least $300,000 in liability insurance. The more hazardous the materials on board, the more insurance the FMCSA requires a truck driver to carry. For example, if a truck driver carries dangerous substances and is a private carrier that is for hire, it must carry $5 million in insurance coverage.
Requiring commercial truck drivers to carry public liability insurance ensures that if a driver is involved in an accident, he or she can pay for the bodily injuries of the other drivers. The driver must also pay for property damage caused by accident. The insurance requirements are per incident, not per person. If you have suffered an injury in a truck accident, you can probably assume that the truck driver’s employer or the driver himself has liability insurance.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Distracted driving plays a large part in large truck accidents. Truck drivers are often under tremendous pressure to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. This pressure can cause fatigue. Fatigue, in turn, can cause drivers to lose focus and be more distracted. Fatigue is a prevalent cause of truck accidents. A lack of rest and quality sleep can cause people to lose focus and be unable to concentrate. Their coordination also becomes impaired, and they are at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Distracted driving is a growing concern for passenger vehicle drivers and commercial vehicle drivers alike. Texting, surfing the internet, and other smartphone use is a leading culprit when it comes to distracted driving. Some drivers fall into the temptation of checking social media while driving. Changing the radio or consulting a GPS device can also contribute to distracted driving. It only takes a second of distracted driving to cause a motor vehicle accident. If the accident involves a large semi-truck, it can result in significant damage to oncoming cars.
Poor Maintenance of the Truck’s Engine and Brake System
Improperly maintaining the brakes on a semi-truck is extremely important to preventing accidents. If a truck driver tries to save money by not paying for maintenance on a vehicle’s brakes, the results can be disastrous. It takes longer for a large semi-truck to stop than it takes a smaller car to stop. If brake pads overheat or have excessive wear and tear, they may fail. Heavy braking can increase the temperature of the brake pads to the point that causes too much wear and tear, causing the pads to melt and break down.
Other times truck drivers may tamper with the brakes of a semi-truck brake system components. Truck drivers have been known to “depower” part of the front brake system in order to improve their fuel efficiency. Doing so is against the law, and it also makes the truck’s stopping distance shorter. In an emergency, the truck is not able to stop as quickly as it should. If you are a truck driver, make sure that you hold to a regular maintenance schedule even if it is inconvenient.
Alcohol and Drug Use
Commercial truck drivers are not immune from driving while under the influence of drugs. Sometimes truck drivers overmedicate to try to stay awake or to compensate for their fatigue and the stress of long hours of driving. Prescription drugs can also cause accidents if the truck driver abuses his or her prescription medication by taking too much or too little. Driving while under the influence drastically increases the risk of getting into a fatal truck accident.