There are two different agencies within the Department of Transportation that record and analyze crash statistics. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) controls the safety equipment and standards of large trucks (over 10,000 lbs) that cross state lines. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) dictates the standards on new truck equipment, regardless of state lines.
Statistical analysis of both agencies' findings back to 1993 reveal that while large trucks make up 5-7% of all registered vehicles each year, they account for nearly 10% of all fatalities on the road.
Assuming that all fatalities are unintentional, what are some of the contributing factors that make such a disproportionate statistic?
Alcohol is a bigger problem in passenger cars than in large trucks. In 2016, only 3 percent of the truck drivers tested after a fatal crash showed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than .08%. That number is 33% in passenger cars. This number is low because of the number of drug and alcohol screening tests conducted randomly throughout their career. So if not alcohol or drugs, then what?
The long hours and many miles fatigue both truck and driver. Parts fail eventually on anything with moving parts subject to the vibrations of the road. Large companies conduct scheduled preventative maintenance which can reduce risk of accidents caused by part failure. Owner operators may choose to deal with problems as they arise because they don't have a team of people calling to find loads for them. An empty truck costs money.
Driver fatigue reduces response time and impairs judgment. During rest time, some sleep better than others while age and experience can decrease the risk of an accident.
Large trucks weigh between 10,000 and 80,000 pounds when loaded. There are exceptions, legal and not, which put some trucks over 80,000 pounds. Any impact can severely damage a smaller vehicle. Trucks can jack-knife or overturn and underriding means a portion of the other vehicle goes underneath the truck. Any of these conditions can increase the damage and odds of fatalities.
The truck is not always at fault, however. Remember that 33% of cars with high BAC's, "texters" and otherwise distracted drivers sometimes destroy the safe driving record of an outstanding truck driver. Fault, though, seems meaningless when a loved one is taken unexpectedly.
If you or a loved one are involved in an accident involving a large truck, whether driver or passenger of either vehicle, please retain a Philadelphia truck accident lawyer.