Study Highlights Commercial Truck Accidents and Safety Risks

They are the ever-present goliaths hauling cargo and traversing America’s highways, semi trucks. While these large trucks play a nearly indispensable role in distributing products, they also pose a safety risk to other, smaller vehicles. And, when 18-wheeler accidents occur – because of the sheer size of the trucks – the consequences for the drivers and passengers of the other vehicles can be devastating. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studied approximately 1,000 vehicle accidents occurring between spring 2001 and winter 2003 involving large trucks that resulted in injuries and fatalities. Called the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS), researchers used the considerable amount of data collected to identify the causes and contributing factors to the accidents and then formulate 10 critical safety issues that need to be addressed. Among the critical safety issues identified in the LTCCS are:

  • Problem identification (identifying how the various factors that contribute to accidents increase accident risk)
  • Vehicle maintenance and inspections
  • Relative roles of cars and large trucks
  • Driver working environment
  • Role of environmental factors
  • Truck driver performance
  • Vehicle design and load
  • Truck driver licensing and monitoring
  • Truck driver training and experience

Driver fatigue/hours of service (HOS) is also included in this risk, and is a topic that is still in debate. In December 2010, the FMCSA proposed new HOS rules for truck drivers. The new rules may shorten the maximum amount of time that commercial trucks can be driven, create a mandatory 30 minute break for truck drivers during the drive window, and require drivers to take two overnight periods (midnight to 6 a.m.) before resetting their weekly hour limits. Accidents involving large trucks may result in serious injuries or fatalities. Drivers and passengers of smaller vehicles are at risk of myriad of injuries, including head and neck injuries, broken bones, internal injuries, and brain injuries. Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Large Truck Crash Causation Study.”