According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tractor-trailer crashes are increasing. In 2012 alone, more than 100,000 people were injured in accidents involving large trucks. The same year, nearly 4,000 people were killed in semi-truck accidents. There was a four percent increase in truck accidents between 2011 and 2012. Fatal truck accidents kill 11 people every day. A recent investigation cites hours of service violations as a contributor to these devastating accidents.
Pressure to Deliver in the Trucking Industry
According to a CNBC report, there are numerous reasons for the increase in tractor-trailer crashes. The industry is plagued by a number of problems, including operators who violate hours of service regulations, poor operator screening, and a reluctance to implement new safety technology.
One report stated: “What is clear is that, in any other industry, thousands of deaths a year would generate a national outcry. But because trucking deaths are scattered in small numbers across the country, they don’t often get covered in the national news—although this summer’s fatal crash in New Jersey involving actor Tracy Morgan was a rare exception.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which completed its investigation of the Morgan crash in August, determined that driver fatigue was the major cause of the fatal accident, which killed one man and left Morgan with a traumatic brain injury. The agency reported that the operator, a driver for Wal-Mart, had driven 12 hours to work before driving a 14-hour shift. The agency determined the driver had been awake and on the road for more than 28 consecutive hours at the time of the crash, a violation of the hours of service rule for commercial truck drivers, which limits operators to 11 consecutive driving hours.
Tractor-trailers move 70 percent of the nation’s goods. With so many large trucks on the roads, accidents are inevitable. According to safety experts, however, many of these accidents are avoidable. Driver fatigue, cell phone use, excessive speed, and driver distractions are frequent causes of semi-truck accidents.