The trucking industry in the United States is frequently on the rise even though faster and newer means of transportation are being invented every day. Whether locally or cross-country, truck transport is one of the most suitable ways to distribute goods, with about 70 percent of all products reaching their destinations via some sort of truck.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), almost 500,000 accidents involving big trucks were reported to the police in 2018, with over 4,000 fatal and over 100,000 causing injury to persons involved. As most people recognize, driving on the highway is dangerous, especially when 10,000-pound trucks and vehicles add to the mix, inevitably spelling disaster. However, oftentimes accidents with big trucks occur in rural areas and specifically account for more than 50 percent of the totality! One must keep in mind the potential for an accident on both ends of the spectrum—the truck drivers and the vehicle drivers. Almost any experienced driver can recall an instance on the road when they became nervous while in close proximity to a big truck. The important thing to remember is the fundamentals we all learn in driver’s education class and the undivided attention when driving any type of motor vehicle for the safety of ourselves, our passengers, and others on the road.
Big trucks present dangers to themselves and others on the road, but what lies in the cargo of a big truck may increase the threat of injury as well. For example, big trucks carry hazardous materials like harsh chemicals that are highly flammable when exposed to heat. Also, big trucks often haul physically dangerous materials like large wood logs, steel beams, and even large machinery. In the event of a crash, these materials may lead to catastrophic results that truck drivers risk every single day while on the road. To elaborate, over 50 percent of reported truck accidents released hazardous and flammable material, with another large chunk of crashes resulting in injuries or towaways. Another factor to consider is the sheer weight of a truck in relation to the basic laws of physics. For example, standard vehicles on the road traveling at high speeds (over 50 mph) need a certain amount of distance and time to come to a complete stop, even when slamming on the brakes.
On the other hand, big trucks carry such heavy loads, ranging from 10 to 40 tons, which requires them an even greater distance and time to come to a complete stop. It is physically impossible for a car traveling on the highway to stop on a dime and foolish to assume a big truck can achieve the same. Part of the reason collisions with big trucks cause so much damage lies within the sheer amount of force upon impact due to such heavy loads. Big trucks list their most harmful collisions as those which occur with other vehicles on the road. The reason for this may stand to point negligence on one party to explain how the accident happened in the first place. However, it must be emphasized that the negligence of regular vehicle drivers is just as likely to occur as the negligence of a big truck driver. In order for a big truck driver to do their job, there are rigorous requirements including testing, both on paper and the road, before one receives their license to drive a big truck.
In any scenario involving an accident, it is crucial to evaluate the people behind the scenes. According to the FMCSA, roughly 5,000 big trucks were involved in fatal accidents in 2018, and of those accidents, there were 328 people 25 years or younger and 294 people 66 years or older. This fact proves that (at least in 2018) most big truck drivers involved in fatal accidents were middle-aged; therefore, a lack of life experience or too much life experience for that matter is unreliable to use as an explanation for the crashes. One may even conclude that it is more than likely that a middle-aged man possesses more big truck driving experience than most, and certainly more experience on that road than most others on the road. However, experience cannot correct bad habits that some drivers (in cars or big trucks) possess on the road.
Fatal crashes entail tragic results, and many fatalities on the road result in the drivers or passengers not wearing seatbelts. Most of the time, there is no explanation of why one fails to wear a seatbelt other than the fact that they negligently decided or forgot to strap in before embarking onto roads and highways. Other factors explain accidents on the road, such as driver impairment either through drugs or alcohol. As most are already informed, driving under the influence is one of the most dangerous things one can participate in, period. An innumerable amount of studies confirm that impairment of any kind slows the driver’s reflexes and prevents them from correcting or adjusting for quick scenarios on the road that occur almost regularly. Even drivers that lack sleep but continue driving pose a risk for others on the road around them.
Unfortunately, this frequently applies to truck drivers due to their high volumes of workloads and shift lengths. The big truck driving industry revolves around the truck company’s ability to deliver its goods on time. This sets up truck drivers for risk by training them to function on small amounts of sleep and large amounts of driving. On the bright side, in recent times, regulations have arisen for truck companies to limit their drivers’ hours and hopefully reduce the number of people on the road with little sleep. For example, hour limits per day exist, and the federal government prevents big truck drivers from driving more than 14 hours in a single day after a 10-hour break. Weekly driving time regulations are in place, as well as required 30-minute driving breaks.
Conditions on the roads themselves add to the complexities of driving any form of vehicle. As big trucks cross states regularly and sometimes the country, the number of driving conditions they experience increases dramatically. Throughout the year, driving conditions decline for those on the road depending on their geographical location at that moment. For example, one may assume driving in the summer is easier; however, in places like the South, the summer is storm season, triggering large gusts and heavy rainfall for hours on end. In addition, in places further North during the fall and winter months, snow and ice play a considerable role in causing vehicle collisions of all sorts, especially for big trucks that fall victim to lack of brake control due to their already heavy loads. Even in the Spring, there are forms of big truck driving that occur on frozen roads, and the melting of these roads kills many big truck drivers each year. Drivers must keep in mind quick tips to keep them informed about the roads they progress on. For example, a road becomes more slippery when rainfall first falls than during the rainfall itself. Also, a tire loses grip on roads that just recently received rainfall that has subsided.
Regulations for big truck drivers stand as the greatest chance to protect both their drivers and others on the road. The weight of a big truck stands as one of the most important factors to monitor consistently. One of the techniques that regulators use is weigh-stations, used as exits on the side of interstate travel. While on the interstate, big trucks may receive a notification over the radio to pull into the next nearest weigh station to be evaluated by state regulators based on the size of their load. Oftentimes, big truck companies may overload their big trucks to decrease the number of trips overall or save money. However, these heavier loads place greater stress on the big truck’s tires and create a more significant risk than reward. In a staggering study, it was observed that big trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds were involved in a 330 percent increase of accidents that occurred on the road. One can only imagine the damage of a 10,000-pound vehicle falling over or colliding with another moving or nonmoving object. If a big truck pulls into a weigh station and fails to fall within compliance weight, they may be ticketed and even lose a part of their load before being allowed to travel back onto the interstate safely. Weigh stations are essential measures taken by each state to protect their drivers and those behind the wheel of big trucks.
Of course, it stands vital to remember that regular vehicles on the road pose the same risks to truck drivers when they embark on trips under the influence or without proper sleep. In addition, reckless forms of driving contribute to large portions of accidents as well. Speeding by regular vehicle drivers or truck drivers remains the number one explanation behind why these collisions occur, in front of the second most common reason, distracted driving. Unfortunately, distracted driving has evolved over the last 20 years due to the advancement of technology in our everyday lives. Things like smartphones and tablets loaded with games and social entertainment are consuming the lives of many Americans due to the high volumes of intriguing information in one place. It is just as likely, if not more likely, to see a driver distracted by viewing social media while operating a vehicle than just texting or talking on the phone alone. The good news about technological advancement is that it occurs in all categories as we continue to progress. For example, new developments in cars and trucks exist to deter vehicle drivers from operating while distracted by their phones. Apps and newly created phone settings disable phone notifications from occurring while drivers are on the road. Overall, the driving world contains an unlimited amount of distractions, but it remains the responsibility of both the car and truck drivers to refrain from participating in these dangerous activities simultaneously.
Unfortunately, trucking accidents occur daily, and it remains our job to keep you informed on the factors that play a part in these tragic events. The more informed you are, the better you can plan to act or react to a potentially life-changing event near you. Although they are common, trucking accidents should not be seen as normal. It is up to us to practice driving as safely as possible for the sake of our own health and the health of those around us. If you find yourself or someone you care about in the midst of a trucking accident, we may be able to help. Trucking accidents may stand tall due to their consequences, but we vow to stand taller to get you the knowledge and help you need. Here at the Cochran Firm, we stand to represent both the standard vehicle drivers AND the big truck drivers because ALL lives are valued the same.
The attorneys at The Cochran Firm are among the nation’s most successful and tenacious attorneys. When navigating through the legal process, you deserve to have an experienced attorney by your side. The Cochran Firm attorneys know how to fight for you.
Here at The Cochran Firm, our experienced attorneys are ready to help you or someone you love pursuing a truck accident claim. Our attorneys work closely with each of our clients using pooled resources and their access to legal expertise to ensure the most effective legal representation available is provided.
You need the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer who has proven successful results in other similar cases to guide you through the process and help you to receive the monetary damages you are entitled to under the law. At The Cochran Firm, we have the offices, the experience, the results, and the resources to aid clients throughout the United States. Please contact the wrongful death attorneys at The Cochran Firm today for your free, no-obligation initial consultation today.