Semi trucks, those tractor-trailer behemoths barreling down the nation’s highways, represent an integral part of a $700-billion trucking industry responsible for hauling 71% of the freight shipped in the U.S. They may be responsible for making the food and consumer goods available, but it’s hard to be grateful when an 80,000-pound, fully loaded semi truck bears down on your 4,000-pound sedan. Trucks serve a purpose, but devastating injuries and fatalities usually accompany collisions between semi trucks and other vehicles.
It takes skill to safely handle a semi truck
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration compiles data about the number of crashes occurring each year involving large trucks. The preliminary report for 2019 shows that 3,087 were killed and another 60,818 people suffered injuries in 178,320 crashes.
The size and weight of semi trucks make them a challenge to maneuver and to stop. At 80,000 pounds maximum gross weight, a fully loaded truck traveling at 65 mph covers a distance equal to the length of two football fields from the time a driver applies the brakes to when the vehicle comes to a complete stop.
Common causes of crashes involving semi trucks
Safe driving practices, proper vehicle maintenance, and compliance with federal and state regulations are factors to avoiding semi truck collisions. Common causes of crashes involving large trucks include the following:
- Fatigue: Truck drivers must comply with federal regulations limiting how long they may drive between rest periods. Unfortunately, drivers who fail to obey the regulations put themselves and other motorists at risk. A driver who is fatigued may be slow to react to changing traffic conditions, such as stopped or slowing vehicles, and cause a collision.
- Distraction: Checking the GPS, talking or texting on a cellphone, and other distractions take a driver’s attention away from the task of maintaining control over the vehicle and observing road conditions and other vehicles.
- Substance impairment: Drugs or alcohol impair a driver’s judgment, coordination, and ability to maintain control over a vehicle.
- Training: It takes an experienced and skilled driver to safely handle a semi truck. Truck owners and trucking companies that do not adequately evaluate the skills of newly hired drivers or that fail to provide proper training to inexperienced drivers increase the chances of an accident caused by human error on the part of the truck driver.
- Mechanical failure: Truck owners who fail to perform periodic inspections on their vehicles and do routine maintenance and repairs as required could be sending unsafe vehicles on the road.
- Cargo issues: Improperly loaded or shifting cargo in the trailer of a semi truck can cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle and crash. Cargo not properly secured on a flatbed trailer can break loose and crash into cars and other vehicles traveling behind.
Someone injured in a collision with a semi truck has the right to be compensated when the accident was the fault of another party. The cause of the crash plays a role in identifying the party or parties responsible. For example, an accident caused by a shift in the cargo carried by a truck may be the result of the negligence of the driver of the semi who failed to inspect the cargo and the company responsible for loading it.
Help from an experienced and skilled personal injury attorney
Victims of a crash involving a semi truck may suffer broken bones, lacerations, traumatic brain injury, and permanent scarring and disfigurement, for which compensation may be available from the party at fault in causing the accident. A Bend, Oregon, personal injury attorney with experience handling semitruck crashes may be an invaluable source of legal advice and guidance to identify responsible parties, gather the evidence needed to prove negligent or careless conduct, and pursue the claim for damages.