Why Are There so Many Crashes Involving Semi-Tractor Trailers?

Every 16 minutes a person is killed or sustains severe injuries in collisions involving 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers or semi's. In 2007 one out of every nine traffic fatalities was caused by one of these big trucks. These trucks often weigh more than 10,000 pounds, so the injuries sustained when you are hit by one are far more severe than in a regular car accident. Eighteen-wheelers only account for 3% of all the vehicles registered on the road today, but according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, account for 12% of all of the vehicles involved in fatal crashes. In Missouri, and particularly in St. Louis, there are so many more commercial trucks driving across our roads because 3 major highways intersect, allowing trucking companies to move goods from east to west, north to south, right across our cities. Couple that with the fact that from 1992 to 2002, the number of big trucks involved in fatal crashes increased by 10% due to driver fatigue, dangerous vehicle operation, large or unstable loads or faulty equipment. And with our economy, more unqualified or new drivers are taking to the road and being hired by the trucking companies to carry their loads.

Driving while fatigued is the number one safety issue facing the trucking industry and is a factor in almost 40% of all crashes in the U.S. The drivers for these trucking companies are under considerable pressure to move the cargo as quickly as possible, making 16 hour days not uncommon. Studies have revealed that 20% of semi tractor trailer drivers on the road had reported that they had fallen asleep at the wheel within the last 30 day period. There are Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations which address the hours of service that drivers are allowed to log. Unfortunately, many trucking companies find ways around these restrictions or flat out choose to violate the regulations, putting us all in danger. Many times, in order to keep their jobs, truckers have no choice but to keep the wheels moving.

Trucking regulations are designed to reduce the number of people injured or killed by these big trucks and govern such things as what route the trucks are allowed to drive, how the trucks are maintained, the necessary training for the drivers, how loads should be safely secured, and the responsibility that the company must take for causing these collisions. Yet, every year there are more truck drivers on the road, more accidents, more fatalities and more violations of the regulations designed to keep us safe.

Truck-car collisions often involve some type of neglect on the part of the truck driver, the trucking company, or both. The most common causes of these crashes is poor training, drivers falling asleep at the wheel, improper or no maintenance of the truck or trailer, improper loading or aggressive driving, including speeding.

Sometimes trucking companies hire incompetent or unskilled drivers and fail to provide appropriate training. These trucks are 10,000 pound monsters, are very hard to maneuver and are very unlike a passenger vehicle in their behavior. It takes great skill and experience to drive one safely and responsibly. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, more than 25% of the truck drivers involved in crashes resulting in a fatality in 2004 had received at least one prior speeding conviction. Unfortunately for those of us traveling on the highway with these trucks, seven percent of the truck drivers had previous license suspensions or revocations and additionally some had prior felony convictions. The only plausible explanation for hiring such drivers with such bad driving records is so that the trucking company could move cargo at the cheapest cost possible.

Many people injured in collisions with these large trucks are surprised to find out the lengths that some companies or their insurers will go to in order to keep from accepting responsibility. But the trucking industry hauls in major revenues. Last year trucking company revenues totaled $610 billion dollars and are forecasted to almost double by 2015.

When people are hurt or their loved ones killed, it is important that they have someone experienced and knowledgeable about the industry to fight for them and secure their rights.

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