National data shows that deadly large truck crashes are occurring more frequently each year, and this problem may only worsen in the coming decade.
Compared to other auto accidents, collisions involving large trucks often have the worst consequences for other drivers and road users. According to The New York Times, recent data shows that commercial vehicles contribute to a disproportionate number of fatal accidents. Unfortunately for drivers in San Mateo, national statistics also show that these catastrophic large truck crashes are becoming more common.
Fatal accidents on the rise
According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data, the number of annual truck crash fatalities jumped 17 percent between 2009 and 2013. In 2013 alone, 3,964 lives were lost in these accidents. The same year, one-eight of all fatal accidents involved large trucks, as did one-quarter of deadly accidents in construction work zones.
This rise in fatal accidents is especially troubling because general motor vehicle crashes fell during the same time period. One likely factor in this decline was the widespread use of various safety technologies, such as anti-rollover and collision-avoidance systems. Sadly, despite the proven benefits of these systems, the trucking industry has failed to utilize many of them. As an example, fewer than one in twenty trucks in the heaviest weight class currently use collision-avoidance technology.
Troubling future outlook
Unfortunately, various recent federal bills and laws have shown a tendency toward decreasing the regulation of large trucks. For example, last year Congress suspended an FMCSA rule that had established stricter weekly rest requirements for truckers. Without this rule in place, truckers can effectively work 82 hours per week, and drowsy driving may increase. Additional proposals to lift or relax trucking safety regulations may leave other drivers at enhanced risk for accidents involving these vehicles.
The problem of catastrophic large truck crashes may only become worse in coming years. CNBC cites the following developments as factors that could raise the risk of these accidents:
- Industry growth. Between 2013 and 2025, the American Trucking Associations expects freight tonnage to increase 23.5 percent. This will necessitate greater truck traffic, larger trucks or some combination of both.
- Driver turnover. Truck driver turnover rates are typically high, and the ATA anticipates that the industry will create 100,000 new driver positions each year through 2025. This could lead to increased hiring of dangerously inexperienced drivers.
- Driver shortages. An ongoing shortage of drivers may place greater demand on working drivers, raising the risk of regulatory violations, fatigued driving and other safety issues. In 2014, the ATA reported a shortage of as many as 35,000 drivers.
Given all of these exacerbating factors, the rise in accidents may continue unchecked unless stricter regulations are passed.
Holding trucking companies responsible
Sadly, large truck crashes will likely harm many people in California this year, if past statistics are any indicator. In 2013, according to California Highway Patrol data, 5,305 injurious accidents and 256 fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred in the state. In more than four out of ten of these accidents, large truck drivers were deemed at fault.
When truck drivers cause or contribute to accidents through negligent behaviors, victims may have legal remedies. Specifically, victims may be able to recover compensation for their medical costs, missed income and other losses. To learn more about the relevant laws and the claim process, victims may benefit from consulting with a truck accident attorney.