One of the most common truck accidents is the rear end accident. While big rigs make up a small percentage of the fatal accidents across the United States, the potential for serious injury is much higher when the crash involves an 18-wheeler.
Last year there were almost 4400 fatal accidents in the United States that involved a big rig. While the number of deaths in crashes has steadily declined since the mid-70s, recently there has been an uptick in fatal crashes with large trucks.
Tractor-trailers take much longer than a passenger car or pickup truck to come to a complete stop. Generally, it takes a semi-truck 40% longer to stop than a car. The stopping distance issue can be exacerbated by wet roadways or a slower reaction time due to driver fatigue. Also, a truck with an empty trailer can take longer to stop than one loaded.
Speed also can play a significant role in rear-end accidents. Commercial truck drivers are generally more careful and driving within the speed limit due to fear of losing a commercial driver’s license and livelihood. But an accident caused by a speeding truck unable to stop in time is something that 18-wheeler accident attorneys see frequently.
The most common rear-end truck accident occurs when traffic suddenly comes to a stop, and the automobiles are able, but the commercial truck is not. Truck drivers should be trained to allow a safety cushion much higher than is required by other vehicles.
Technology has been a significant factor in making passengers safer and reducing the number of car accidents. Safety features such as a forward collision warning and automatic braking prevent many collisions, but the technology has been slow to be utilized in big rigs.
Because semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and a typical automobile weights about 5000 pounds, the potential for injury is especially acute for the occupants of the passenger cars. While truck drivers are injured in accidents, they are protected by the size of the tractor and or injured much less frequently than the occupants of the automobiles they hit.
Still, driving a large truck for a living is considered one of the most dangerous occupations in America.
It is easy to obtain a commercial driver license, and recently, there has been a significant shortage of available qualified truck drivers. Between the long hours, low pay and time away from family and friends the industry has had trouble attracting younger drivers. According to The Labor Department, the starting salary is about $40,000 for truckers. Drivers working for private companies such as Walmart make considerably more, and those positions are much easier to fill.
When there is a driver shortage, there is much pressure upon trucking companies to fill the open positions even if the driver is not well qualified. Putting inexperienced drivers behind the wheel leaves the motoring public at risk when the driver is behind the wheel of a vehicle weighing up to 80,000 pounds.
It is unknown whether the increase in fatal rear-end accidents is in part attributable to motor carriers hiring drivers with the minimum level of acceptable safety training.