Big trucks can cause big damage when involved in an accident. An analysis of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows nearly 390,000 big-rig accidents between 2009 and 2013, and more than 14,000 people have died as a result of those accidents. Nearly 25% of those deaths involved trucks that had recently been cited with safety violations.
Ironically, trucks are becoming safer to drive than ever. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, the fatal accident rate for large trucks was cut in half between 1994 and 2010. The fatality rates are nearly the same as those of passenger vehicles. Recently, however, new problems are coming to light that may require legislation to solve.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets national standards, but states are able to decide an individual level of enforcement. According to the Post-Gazette, this means that “Texas… puts a high priority on headlights and signals… [while] Arizona is much more likely to cite a driver for logbook irregularities.”
While the federal government strictly regulates other forms of transportation, it mainly administers funds to state enforcement plans. Because of the lack of national enforcement, trucks cited in one state may pass through any number of other states without a problem.
Daniel Blower studies truck safety at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. He said, “One out of six trucks pulled over for inspection [in 2014] was deemed so badly out-of-order that it was unsafe to drive.”
In September 2012, Tennessee inspectors issued a slew of violations to a Florida based truck. The list included bald tires, poorly maintained equipment, and brakes out of adjustment. Just a month later, the truck was back on the road. This time, no one caught the bad brakes, and the loaded big-rig plowed through a parked car and two school buses before slamming into the side of an occupied house in Pittsburgh. The brakes were so badly out of alignment that one of the truck’s back wheels was able to spin freely.
The scattered approach to enforcement can make sense in light of the different conditions across the country, but conversely makes the overall effort to increase the safety of big-rig transportation more difficult. There are efforts in the works to correct this issue, but only time will tell how well they work.
In the meantime, it pays to be aware on the road. Be cautious of other drivers at all times, but especially in heavy traffic. When driving around big trucks, make sure to follow the golden rule; if you can’t see them, they can’t see you. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident on the road, please contact us for a free consultation.