There were over 5,600 people killed in accidents involving large trucks in 2021. This is the highest number of fatalities in almost four decades, according to preliminary figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As these data indicate, truck size and other factors present a risk to other motorists and their passengers.
Statistics on truck accident injuries and driving behavior illustrate the dangers posed by these vehicles. Large trucks are often 30 to 40 times heavier than passenger vehicles, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Because trucks are taller and have more ground clearance, lower-riding passenger vehicles can slide underneath them.
Truck accidents reached a crisis level and reversed a trend that was declining before 2020, according to the NHTSA. Fatalities increased by 13% from 2020 to 2021, which also constituted a 52% rise in truck accident deaths since 2010. This is a record high.
There were over 40,000 accidents involving large trucks in this country for the first three months of 2022. These caused over 1,000 fatalities and almost 17,000 injuries.
Montana was listed as the fourth deadliest state in 2020 by the Truck Safety Coalition. It had 2.9 truck accident fatalities per 100,000 population.
Truck accidents in this country cost $180 billion per year, according to some estimates.
Truck drivers have unique working conditions. They undergo excessive sleep disruptions, which cause cognitive impairment and accidents. Employers often pressure their drivers to drive when they are fatigued to meet strict time commitments.
E-commerce has increased the demand for more long- and short-haul trucks. Meeting this demand has jeopardized truck safety records.
Large truck driver training has also been negatively affected. In many cases, drivers only have to pass a medical examination and a brief driver test. Some states allow the school that trained the driver to administer the test.
Dangers need to be addressed
Congress, the NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration must address ongoing and urgent problems, strengthen regulations and cease weakening existing requirements. Safety advocates claim that these matters need to be addressed:
- Underride accidents involving cars sliding under a tractor trailer or single-unit truck.
- Requiring automatic emergency brake systems and speed limiters on heavy trucks.
- Stopping trucking companies, known as chameleon carriers, which attempt to hide their identity and avoid federal penalties and fines and legal liability.
Attorneys can obtain evidence and determine whether a truck driver and their carrier are liable for injuries. They can assist victims of these accidents and their families seek compensation.