The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the central agency responsible for regulating the commercial truck industry. They recently issued a safety report that is intended to inform drivers in passenger vehicles of best practices when encountering semi-trucks. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that there were over 600 fewer highway fatalities overall in 2017 compared to 2016. During the same period, the number of fatal accidents involving commercial trucks rose by nearly 10% to a total of approximately 4,761.
Passenger Cars in Truck “Blind Spots”
One of the factors that can cause collisions between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks are “blind spots.” Large trucks and buses have large areas on both sides where the driver is unable to see. Often passenger vehicles will unknowingly travel in these areas, particularly along highway stretches. Crashes are increasingly common when vehicles are merging or passing one another. The key for motorists to remember is that if you are unable to see the truck driver than they are likely unable to see you.
Increased Crash Severity
Collisions between passenger cars and commercial trucks are clearly among the most likely to result in severe injuries and fatalities. These trucks can be over 20 times the weight of other vehicles on the roads. Collisions that otherwise might be considered as a minor “fender bender” may involve sufficient force to severely damage passenger vehicles. The massive weight of tractor-trailers also significantly reduces their ability to accelerate, brake and change directions.
Longer Stopping Distances
A truck carrying a full load of cargo at high speeds needs a significantly greater distance in order to make a complete stop. This distance may be extended further amid poor weather conditions such as rain, snow, and ice. Passenger car drivers must remember not to abruptly pass in front of these trucks. When a truck is improperly loaded with cargo or is overloaded with a material, it may experience dangerous shifts in weight. For example, if an overloaded truck attempts to suddenly brake, the massive force from the shift of internal cargo can cause the vehicle to fall over.
Trucks Have Decreased Maneuverability
Buses and large commercial trucks are much less able to maneuver than passenger vehicles. This limitation creates even greater risk in zones of construction, parking areas and at intersections. Trucks need a greater amount of space to fully execute turns. Sometimes passenger vehicles find themselves too close to a truck that is turning.
Other Common Causes of Truck Accidents
- Truck driver negligence: Although these commercial operators are professional drivers they will still make errors. They may be following too closely to the vehicle ahead of them, underestimate a sharp turn, or many other examples of human error.
- Truck malfunction: Commercial vehicles operators are required to adhere to a set of procedures for regular inspection and maintenance of their vehicles.
- Drowsy driving: Commercial vehicle operators are often under pressure to reach their destination quickly. They may have a tendency to exceed the time that they are supposed to drive without taking a break. A truck driver who is not fully alert can create dangerous situations.
- Distractions: The problem with distracted driving that has emerged in this country is widespread. Far too many drivers are using mobile devices or other onboard features that cause them to take their eyes off of the road.