Deadly Truck Crashes, Despite Better Inspections And More Oversight
Truck crashes are killing more people — despite stricter inspections and more emphasis on safety.
The Denver Post reported that the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks in the United States increased by 42 percent from 2009-2017, citing information from the National Traffic Safety Administration.
Nearly 4,800 people were killed in 4,237 wrecks in 2017 — most of them in neighboring vehicles.
In that same period, the federal and state agencies responsible for supervising about 3.5 million roadside inspections of large trucks each year began the most sophisticated system ever used in the U.S. to track mechanical and safety violations nationwide.
This has helped authorities crack down on the most egregious repeat offenders, to try to reduce big-truck risks on the roads.
In Colorado, the number of fatal crashes was down slightly in 2017 but has more than doubled, from 35 in 2009 to 80 in 2017, the most recent year available. Those wrecks killed 87 people.
Authorities are left to wonder about rising fatality numbers
“We realize we have a responsibility out there, and we want it to be safe for everyone. But like anything else, we can improve, and that’s our goal,” said Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association.
Driver error is the prevailing factor in most crashes. That includes errors by drivers of vehicles involved in truck crashes, not just truck drivers themselves. The Denver Post story, citing federal and state studies, said that drivers of surrounding vehicles — not truck drivers – are more often than not the ones found at fault in crashes.
The reasons for that are familiar ones: driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving recklessly or focusing on smart phones instead of the road.
Officials search for answers as they review deadly crashes
Four people were killed after an “an apparently out-of-control semitrailer plowed into more than two dozen stopped vehicles” on Interstate 70 in Jefferson County in Colorado on April 25, 2019.
The driver of that Houston truck told police he lost the ability to brake while coming down I-70’s steep mountain descent into the city. Causes for that could be mechanical failure or improper use that caused the brakes to overheat.
Brake violations are among the most common cited in inspections. Safety advocates say this underlines the need for drivers to take their pre- and post-drive mechanical checks seriously.
Across the U.S., about 12 million large trucks are registered. Such trucks have a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds, before they’re carrying cargo.
In context: The U.S. trucking industry’s safety record is much improved from decades ago. Legislation in the 1980s required more roadside inspections and gave states money to carry most of those out — and that was even before technological improvements made trucks safer.
In 1979, according to federal traffic information, there were 5.21 fatal crashes per million miles traveled by large trucks. In 2017, despite the recent surge in fatalities, the same measure was at 1.42.
Contact the Law Offices of Michael J. Gopin, PLLC today for help regarding truck-crash fatalities and other traffic accidents in the El Paso, Texas area. Your initial consultation is absolutely free of charge.