Commercial Truck Safety on Our Roads
By Victoria Ipri, Staff Writer
It was a frigid and icy day when Dave set out on his usual route as a commercial tractor-trailer driver. Unfazed by road conditions treacherous to small vehicles, Dave traveled securely along the highway, pleased to be making great time and dreaming about his upcoming vacation. Dave’s daydreaming was sharply interrupted, however, by the blaring of a car horn behind him. The driver of that vehicle was clearly frustrated. Laying on his horn and waving his hands, Dave recognized that the car driver wanted to pass. But Dave could not see a safe way to allow passage, so he continued driving.
The next thing Dave knew, he was hanging upside down by his seat belt in the cab of his truck, blood oozing from his face. The impatient fellow driver had made a very risky road maneuver, causing Dave to swerve and crash. Police and ambulance were on the scene, traffic was snarled and, for Dave, the long journey back to good health was just beginning.
All too often, car drivers place the blame for accidents on truck drivers, but car drivers are also just as often to blame. The commercial driver must undergo specialized training to prepare for a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Throughout this training, the driver becomes more skilled, with the goal of earning the CDL and safely operating tractor-trailers on American roads. With commercial tractor-trailers weighing up to 26,000 lbs., it is not difficult to understand the level of care and skill needed to properly operate large trucks. Still, even the best trained and most skilled drivers are at risk on the road, and truck accidents leading to injuries occur frequently.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents
Unsafe Passing: Drivers take many risks to “get around” slower moving trucks. Passing blindly, passing on hills or around curves and crossing into oncoming traffic for “just a second” are common causes of truck accidents.
Erratic Driving: Large trucks have less maneuverability than do average-sized cars. Trucks cannot stop as quickly, turn as smoothly, and brake as completely. The driver who darts in front of a truck in a rush to pass may create dire consequences for all involved.
Blind Spot Driving: It is not uncommon for a truck accident to occur because a car was driving in the truck’s blind spot. Big rigs have larger blind spots than small cars, and if the car is traveling alongside a truck in this blind spot when the truck driver must turn or merge, it can lead to an accident.
DUI: Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a leading cause of truck accidents, as well as a criminal offense for the impaired driver.
Distracted Driving: Given the prolific use of mobile phones, many drivers may operate vehicles while distracted by text messaging and other phone activities. Distracted driving can also occur when small children are passengers. It is essential that drivers be alert and aware whenever operating any motor vehicle.
Truck Accident Statistics
Semi-truck drivers also cause accidents. Commercial vehicles can break down on the road, or drivers may inadvertently violate safety procedures. If the truck is found to be defective or insufficiently repaired, this could spell liability for the driver, the truck manufacturer and even the repair shop.
For the 2014- 2015 period:
- The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased by 8 percent, from 3,749 to 4,050, and the large truck involvement rate (large trucks involved in fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled by large trucks) increased by 8 percent, from 1.34 to 1.45.
- The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes decreased by 1 percent, from 88,000 to 87,000, and the large truck involvement rate in injury crashes decreased by 2 percent.
- The number of large trucks involved in property damage only crashes decreased by 1 percent, from 346,000 to 342,000, and the large truck involvement rate in property damage only crashes decreased by 2 percent.
- Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by large trucks increased by 0.3 percent.
(source: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ )
Workers Compensation for Truck Drivers
Commercial tractor-trailer drivers injured in an accident may be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits, even when technically classified as independent contractors. As well, the truck driver may file a personal injury claim against drivers of other involved vehicles, particularly when injuries are extensive and careers may be interrupted. It is vital to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your rights and obtain compensation for your injuries to cover your medical bills, lost wages and future lost income potential.