Many drivers today possess a profound fear of semi-trucks, and with good reason. These motor vehicles can weigh over 40 times more than the common passenger cars. Despite strict regulations from both federal and state government entities, some trucking companies and drivers continue to employ incompetent drivers who continually operate their trucks in violation of applicable safety rules and reulgations and at unsafe speeds, especially in hazardous conditions such as rain, snow, ice and fog.
Approximately 5,000 people die and 130,000 people are injured each year as a result of trucking accidents in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a database of all fatality motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. It is called the FARS, the Fatality Accident Reporting System. Here are some stunning statistics from the site:
- there were 4,066 fatality accidents in the U.S. in 2008 involving large trucks
- 46% of those crashes involved head-on impact, the most harmful type of crash
- 13.5% of fatality trucking crashes in 2008 involved roll-over accidents
- The average number of deaths from fatal trucking crashes in the US since 1994 has hovered around 5,000 a year
In addition to the number of deaths involving semi-trucks, numerous crashes result in catastrophic injury. In 2008, 77,000 crashes involving a large truck resulted in injury. Adjusted for a 2005 dollar amount, on average, each traffic accident involving a large truck cost $91,112.
One reason for the fear of large semi-trucks on the highway is the national sentiment that trucking companies often cut corners to turn profits and force their drivers to drive more and more miles on less and less rest and with less and less safety regulation and enforcement.
For example, over 3 million truck drivers were inspected in 2006 which resulted in over 200,000 drivers receiving an out-of-service violation. An Out-of-service is an order given by a federal or state official when a driver or truck is in violation of one or more significant safety regulations required by law. Violations of safety regulations serious enough to warrant an out-of-service order are considered a high safety risk to all motorists. Drivers or trucking companies who receive out-of-service violations can be prohibited from operating commercial vehicles for a specific time period or until the violation is corrected.
Regulations that, in violation of, could warrant an out-of-service order for truck drivers include the age of the driver, the lack of an up-to-date CDL, fatigue, number of driving hours in a specific time period, and drug/alcohol abuse. Furthermore, of the over 2 million trucks were inspected in 2006, 23.7% of those commercial vehicles received an out-of-service violation. Startlingly, this means approximately 550,000 trucks were operating on our roadways in violation of government safety regulations.
For more information on trucking laws and regulations, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website or the National Transportation Safety Board. See also the American Association of Justice (AAJ) 2009 Report on Trucking Safety (PDF).