Trucks play a crucial role in transporting cargo throughout the United States for everything we need in life. Our economy and our modern way of life depend on truck transportation.
There are over 15 million trucks in the United States, of which approximately two million are tractor-trailers, or 18-wheelers. It is thus inevitable that there will be trucking accidents. Just last month, a 26- year old man died in Hancock, Maryland after his tractor-trailer rolled down an embankment.
What are the main causes of these accidents, and how can we minimize them?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, identifies a number of factors that contribute to truck accidents, including:
Driver fatigue. Truckers often drive for long, uninterrupted hours, and can be affected by fatigue just like a non-commercial driver. Driving while drowsy slows response time and its effects are similar to that of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Driving Patterns and Errors of Truck and Small Vehicle Drivers. Simple maneuvers such as lane changes and backing up are far more difficult in a tractor-trailer than in a smaller vehicle. Cars and SUVs are often difficult to see from the vantage point of a much larger vehicle, and a truck driver must consider these handicaps.
Cars and other smaller vehicles often drive faster than trucks, and can stop much more quickly. The drivers of these smaller vehicles can increase their awareness of the limitations of trucks and drive accordingly.
Environmental Factors. Because trucks are larger, slower to accelerate and decelerate, and have visibility difficulties, roads must be built in a way to maximize driver safety on a road where trucks drive. The FMCSA notes that improved exit ramp designs, truck-free lanes, and different speed limits for trucks could maximize driver safety.
In our trucking practice, we have helped many clients in the wake of trucking accidents. It is our hope that all of us, whatever type of vehicle we drive, will drive with the greatest care possible to protect the greatest cargo of all: our passengers, our fellow drivers and ourselves.