According to the American Trucking Associations, nearly 70 percent of all the freight tonnage moved in the country goes on trucks. In short, the commercial trucking industry is the lifeline of the United States economy. However, commercial trucks are involved in more road crashes than any other type of vehicle due to their extensive time on the road.
Most commercial truck accidents involving an eighteen wheeler or a freight carrier are often more catastrophic than car accidents. The massive size of commercial trucks causes irrevocable damage to passenger vehicles involved in the accident. Such accidents often result in fatal injury or death.
Millions of commercial vehicles travel at all hours on the roadways and interstates. Motorists should, therefore, pay more attention to these vehicles. Here are four important facts to know about commercial truck accidents.
- Driver Error Is the Most Common Cause of Commercial Truck Accidents
It may sound surprising, but alcohol and drug use are not the most common causes of commercial truck accidents. Driver errors are often responsible for such accidents. These errors may include driving when fatigued, distracted driving, inadequate training, and cargo overload. Driving at high speed and frequent lane changes are also responsible for truck accidents.
A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required to become a professional truck driver. Application procedures, qualifying criteria, and training programs may differ from state to state. However, drivers have to follow federal regulations in all states. Despite going through a rigorous training program, they need to take extra precautions on the road.
Drivers should make sure to get an adequate amount of sleep before starting a long haul. Estimates suggest driver fatigue is responsible for up to 30 percent of fatal crashes and 15 percent of accidents involving serious injuries. Even when there is less traffic on the road, drivers need to focus their attention on the road to ward off distraction. They should avoid texting, speaking on the phone, or entering directions into a GPS system when driving. In several states, texting behind the wheel is against the law.
- Truck Accidents Lead to Millions of Dollars in Property Damage
More often than not, truck accidents lead to massive property damage, serious injuries, and even deaths. As a result, there are two types of costs associated with an accident: Direct and indirect costs.
Direct (visible) costs may include medical bills of injured victims, costs associated with fatalities, lost wages, property and cargo damage, increased insurance costs, and loss of revenue among others.
Indirect or invisible costs may include environmental costs, government policy costs, and lost sales and customers. Plus, accidents can have a negative impact on the trucking company’s public relations. For example, the 2014 accident involving a Wal-Mart company truck and a car carrying the famous comedian, Tracy Morgan, has become a public relations nightmare for Wal-Mart.
The cost of a fatal truck wreck is considerably high. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that the average cost of a commercial truck accident involving a fatality is around $3.6 million per crash. However, the average cost of accidents resulting only in injuries is around $200,000 per crash. A typical truck accident involving minor injuries or only property damage can cost you around $91,000. Fortunately, the human cost of a truck accident is preventable. Truck companies and drivers should adhere to the safety regulations issued by various federal and state authorities.
- Federal Regulation Can Increase Road Safety
The federal government has enacted several trucking regulations to increase road safety. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), from 2013 to 2014, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes went down from 3,921 to 3,744, a decrease of around six percent. However, the number of large trucks involved in injury crashes increased by 21 percent due to increased violations by truck drivers and trucking companies.
Despite several federal regulations, trucking accidents continue to rise due to negligence. The federal government has introduced some new laws in last five years to curb the increasing safety violations. In July 2013, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) changed the average workweek for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease of 12 hours from the maximum of 82 hours to reduce driver fatigue. The rule also requires drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of their shift.
According to a new rule released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) early this year, truck companies and drivers are required to replace paper logs with electronic logs. As they are difficult to tamper with, federal inspectors can easily identify logbook entry violations, increasing safety for every traveler on the road. The new federal regulations have always caused quite a stir in the trucking industry, which is known for resisting such policy changes.
- You Can File a Lawsuit Following a Trucking Accident
Trucking companies are required to complete their assignments in a safe and timely fashion. However, truck accidents often involve passenger vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities. More often than not, injured victims are left to deal with emotional and physical pain, expensive medical bills, lost wages, and significant property damage.
Fortunately, you can file a lawsuit against the negligent party to get compensation for injuries and damages sustained. You can sue different people and entities, depending on the circumstances of your case. However, deciding who to sue is easier said than done. Besides, personal injury claims involving a truck accident require extensive research and investigation. You may have to hire expert investigators and private detectives to gather crucial evidence to strengthen your case. It is, therefore, necessary to consult a qualified personal injury lawyer specializing in truck accident cases similar to yours before filing a lawsuit.
Motor vehicle crashes are a common occurrence in the United States. However, commercial vehicles can cause serious property damage, severe injuries, and fatalities, should they be involved in an accident. Accidents involving a big rig can happen for a variety of reasons including driver error, mechanical failure, and weather conditions. Despite several federal and state regulations and years of safety campaigns, truck accidents have reduced by only a modest fraction. Understanding the facts about truck accidents is perhaps the best way to prevent such crashes.