WHY ARE THERE SO MANY TRACTOR-TRAILER WRECKS? - Elliott & Smith Law Firm

Elliott & Smith Law Firm

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Dec 12

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY TRACTOR-TRAILER WRECKS?

Each day, thousands of Arkansans and guests visiting our state share the roadways with some of the largest and most dangerous vehicles in the world.

According to the American Trucking Association; there are approximately 3.6 million heavy duty class 8 trucks and over 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States. Together they move over 10.5 billion tons of freight.  With Interstate 40; Interstate 30; Interstate 540; and Interstate 49 running through the state of Arkansas, many of these large trucks are constantly running on Arkansas roadways. Unfortunately, with many tractor-trailers using our roadways we see numerous wrecks. It has been predicted by Reuters; that in 2018, the United States trucking industry will have grown by 4.2%; and will continue to grow at a rate of 2.3% through the year 2024.

With the increase in the number of 18 wheelers on our roadways; we will see an increase of wrecks involving tractor-trailers.

As I was preparing this article yesterday; there was a horrible tractor-trailer wreck in Van Buren, Crawford County, Arkansas, which involved three other vehicles.  As is the case with many wrecks involving a tractor-trailer, three people unfortunately lost their life; which included the driver of the tractor-trailer, and both drivers of other vehicles involved. In this case, a truck driving down Interstate 540 in Van Buren, Arkansas, lost control of his tractor-trailer; crossing over the median, into the opposite lane of traffic. As a result, he struck another tractor-trailer; a passenger vehicle; and a dump truck.  The cause of the wreck is still being investigated, at this time.

In 2016, there were 4,440 large trucks and buses involved in fatal crashes; with 4,213 of those crashes involving large trucks.  

This was an increase of 3%, in tractor-trailer crashes, from 2015. There was also a whopping 29% increase from, what was reported, in 2009. (Information obtained from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration FMCSA)   Why are we seeing this constant increase in the number of fatality crashes involving tractor-trailers?

Studies have shown; that over 25% of all fatality crashes involving tractor-trailers; are caused by truck driver; who have had at least one speeding ticke; prior to the fatal wreck.  

We have seen many different causes for these wrecks, in the past. Including driver fatigue, and the use of faulty equipment. Such as faulty brakes or tires with insufficient tread. Tractor-trailer drivers are limited by the number of hours they can drive; without rest. Often however; drivers ignore these regulations, and drive more hours than allowed. Causing themselves to be fatigued; resulting in the inability to properly focus on driving.  

The largest number of crashes, involving 18 wheelers; are caused simply by the careless operation of the vehicle by the driver. Many truck drivers drive their vehicles as if they are the only ones on the road; often disregarding the safety of the other drivers. They drive their vehicles at an excessive rate of speed, and swerve in and out of traffic. Many times they are unaware of other vehicles sharing the road.

In some situations; we have seen drivers of tractor-trailers that were operating their vehicles under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances.  We have found; when drivers get fatigued; they turn to what they can for a pick me up. This includes the use of speed or other illegal drugs.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute IIHS-HLDI; most deaths in large truck crashes are the passenger vehicle occupants.  

The main reason for this is the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles. Tractor-trailers often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger vehicles. They also require greater ground clearance; which can lead to smaller vehicles under-riding trucks in crashes.  Unfortunately, what we commonly see is that in most  cases involving a tractor-trailer and a personal vehicle; is the parties in the personal vehicles are usually severely injured. Often, victims do not survive the crash.

The IIHS-HLDI has also found that the braking capability of tractor-trailers is a huge factor in truck crashes.

 Loaded tractor-trailers often take 20-40 percent farther; than passenger vehicles to come to a stop. Therefore, the discrepancy is even greater on wet and slippery roadways.  The percentage is also higher; when operators drive; their tractor-trailers, with poorly maintained brakes. As stated earlier; driver fatigue is a known crash risk. The IIHS-HLDI indicates that drivers; of large trucks; may drive up to 11 hours at a time. They have conducted surveys that indicate that many drivers violate the regulations; working longer hours than permitted.  

At Elliott and Smith Law Firm, we have been involved in numerous tractor-trailer cases throughout our careers; and know the ins and outs of the trucking industry.

 If involved in a wreck; with a tractor-trailer; it is important to contact a qualified attorney promptly.   We understand that these tragic events turn lives upside down, and will preserve needed evidence. We work hard to do what we can to help families deal with these tragedies. If you or a family member have been injured; or have suffered a loss of life; due to a negligent truck driver; contact Elliott & Smith Law Firm at 479-JUSTICE (587-8423) today.  

By:  J. Timothy Smith, Personal Injury attorney at Elliott and Smith Law Firm, Fayetteville, Arkansas